[ISN] Echelon Eavesdrops Around the World Without Warrant or Court Order

From: cult hero (jerichoat_private)
Date: Thu May 27 1999 - 01:59:23 PDT

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    Echelon Eavesdrops Around the World Without Warrant or Court Order       
    (Salt Lake Tribune; 05/08/99)                     
       You may not have heard of Echelon, but if you've called over to Europe
    lately, it has probably overheard you. Echelon is a global communications
    surveillance system that allows our government to listen in on
    international phone calls and intercept e-mail and faxes, all without a
    warrant or court order. 
       In addition to spying on criminal and espionage activities, Echelon
    also has been known to eavesdrop on Princess Diana and Amnesty
    International. And stealing proprietary secrets from European corporations
    is one of its stocks in trade. This may all sound like a bad movie by
    Albert Broccoli -- American spy agency run amok -- but the nightmare
    scenario is true. 
       According to two recent reports made to the European Parliament,
    Echelon tries to intercept all international cellular, fiber-optic,
    microwave and satellite traffic from around the world, including North
    America. The voice and data communications are then sent through a
    filtering system that is programmed to look for certain code words and
    phrases, like names of individuals and organizations. 
       The filters also search for particular people using voice recognition
    technology. Anything flagged by the filters is then sent to the
    intelligence agency that requested it. Echelon is a joint operation
    between the U.S.  National Security Agency and the intelligence agencies
    of England, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. 
       If the reports about the extent of spying are accurate, then American
    overseas conversations and data transmissions are being intercepted
    without any form of judicial or legislative oversight.  With Echelon, the
    NSA may have the largest domestic surveillance system of any spy agency in
    the United States, including the FBI, yet it's subject to none of the
    legal constraints. 
       So far, Echelon has been operating under the radar screen of the
    American public. Internationally, though, government watchdogs and the
    media have been on to it for years. 
       As early as the 1970s, British researchers uncovered information on a
    burgeoning international surveillance network. They discovered this by
    simply connecting the dots -- visually connecting the posted microwave
    towers in the United Kingdom, which were situated on hilltops always in
    line of sight to each other. After mapping this transmission path, they
    were arrested and charged with violating Britain's Official Secrets Act. 
       In 1996, Echelon was further revealed in a book by New Zealand author
    Nicky Hager. Secret Power exposed the massive reach of Echelon and the
    fact that, as opposed to Cold War spy networks, it was designed to
    eavesdrop primarily on non- military targets: businesses, political
    organizations, governments and individuals. Echelon is particularly
    disturbing to nations that are competing economically with its members. 
       This month, in the Electronic Telegraph International News, Tony
    Paterson reported from Berlin that the United States is using Echelon to
    conduct industrial espionage against German businesses. A former NSA
    employee who refused to be identified appeared on German television last
    year and disclosed that the American government has spied on the German
    energy company Enercon. 
       Satellite information was used to monitor phone and computer
    transmissions between the company's research facility and its production
    plant. Information on Enercon's secret invention, which turned wind power
    into electricity much more efficiently, was then turned over to an
    American firm, according to the NSA source. When Enercon attempted to
    market its product in this country, it found the American company had
    already obtained a patent on the idea and sought a court order to ban the
    sale of Enercon's products. 
       "Washington has instructed its security services to collect information
    for the benefit of American industry," wrote Paterson. 
       And according to Hager, Echelon has been used to give negotiators an
    edge in trade talks. For example, he reported that there was stepped-up
    monitoring of all nations participating in GATT, or General Agreement on
    Tariffs and Trade, negotiations. 
       But it's not just governments and businesses that have to worry. 
    Apparently, international charities and human rights groups have been
    targets of Echelon's big ears. A British intelligence operative told
    London's Observer that both Amnesty International and Christian Aid have
    been spied on. Before her death, the NSA had been collecting the personal
    conversations of Princess Diana. An intelligence expert suggested it was
    possibly because our government didn't like her activism in support of a
    treaty to ban land mines. 
       Because Echelon is steeped in secrecy, the NSA refuses to even
    acknowledge its existence. But if the NSA isn't willing to be accountable
    to the media, it should be accountable to Congress. Both the American
    Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., have called for
    congressional hearings into Echelon and whether it is violating federal
    foreign surveillance statutes and the Constitution. 
       At a recent conference on computers, freedom and privacy, Barr called
    on Congress to "exercise aggressive oversight of government transmission,
    retrieval, storage and manipulation of private personal information. 
       "We must demand the government account for its surveillance activities,
    including Project Echelon, and take steps to ensure the privacy of
    electronic communications," he said. 
       It is not hard to envision the Echelon system being used to infiltrate
    political advocacy organizations both here and abroad in the style of J.
    Edgar Hoover. Without congressional and judicial oversight, the NSA and
    the executive branch can use this ubiquitous spy machine to whatever
    mischievous and unconstitutional means they wish. Which is what they
    appear to be doing now. 
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