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Congress, NSA butt heads over Echelon

Congress has squared off with the National Security Agency over a top-secret U.S. global electronic surveillance program, requesting top intelligence officials to report on the legal standards used to prevent privacy abuses against U.S. citizens.
ECHELON - Global Spy Network
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According to an amendment to the fiscal 2000 Intelligence Authorization Act proposed last month by Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), the director of Central Intelligence, the director of NSA and the attorney general must submit a report within 60 days of the bill becoming law that outlines the legal standards being employed to safeguard the privacy of American citizens against Project Echelon.

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Echelon is NSA's Cold War-vintage global spying system, which consists of a worldwide network of clandestine listening posts capable of intercepting electronic communications such as e-mail, telephone conversations, faxes, satellite transmissions, microwave links and fiber-optic communications traffic. However, the European Union last year raised concerns that the system may be regularly violating the privacy of law-abiding citizens [FCW, Nov. 17, 1998].

   (full text)

Spying on
the Spies

by Niall McKay
The National Security Agency has its ear to the world, but doesn't listen to everyone at once.

That was one conclusion of a new report, Interception Capabilities 2000, accepted late last week by the European Parliament's Science and Technology Options Assessment Panel (STOA).
The panel commissioned Duncan Campbell, a British investigative reporter, to prepare a report on Echelon, the US-led satellite surveillance network.
Campbell was asked to investigate the system in the wake of charges made last year in the European Parliament that Echelon was being used to funnel European government and industry secrets into US hands.
"What is new and important about this report is that it contains the first ever documentary evidence of the Echelon system," said Campbell. Campbell obtained the document from a source at Menwith Hill, the principal NSA communications monitoring station, located near Harrogate in northern England.
The report details how intelligence agencies intercept Internet traffic and digital communications, and includes screen shots of traffic analysis from NSA computer systems.
Interception Capabilities 2000 also provides an account of a previously unknown, secret international organization led by the FBI. According to Campbell, the "secret" organization, called ILETS (International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar), is working on building backdoor wiretap capabilities into all forms of modern communications, including satellite communications systems.

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Echelon: Interception Capabilities 2000

EU simmers
over Menwith
listening post

The Electronic Telegraph,
16 July 1998

America's Spy
in the Sky

Patric S. Pool,
Covenant Syndicate,
June 15, 1998, Vol.2, No.121

Cooking up a charter for snooping

The Electronic Telegraph,
16 December 1997

  U.S. National Security Agency  -  N S A  Spies like US

The Electronic Telegraph,
16 December 1997

Listening In

by Jason Vest
Village Voice

ECHELON is operated jointly by five spy organizations under the umbrella of the 1948 UKUSA (pronounced you-koo-za) agreement.

The five SIGNET (signals intelligence) agencies are
NSA - National Security Agency,
CSE - Communications Security Establishment,
GCHQ - Government Communications Head Quarters,
DSD - Defense Signals Directorate and
GCSB - New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau.

The NSA is the senior member and calls virtually all the shots.
  U.S. National Security Agency  -  N S A  While the Central Intelligence Agency--responsible for covert operations and human-gathered intelligence, or HUMINT--is the spy agency most people think of, the NSA is, in many respects, the more powerful and important of the U.S. intelligence organizations.

Though its most egregious excesses of 20 years ago are believed to have been curbed, in addition to monitoring all foreign communications, it still has the legal authority to intercept any communication that begins or ends in the U.S., as well as use American citizens' private communications as fodder for trainee spies. Charged with the gathering of signals intelligence, or SIGINT--which encompasses all electronic communications transmissions--the NSA is larger, better funded, and infinitely more secretive than the CIA. Indeed, the key document that articulates its international role has never seen the light of day. (full text)

Echelon Eavesdrops Around the World
Without Warrant or Court Order


    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.
    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. (full text)

Codename: ECHELON

The best and most comprehensive collection of links to web-articles in chronological order, sources and resources related to ECHELON and UKUSA, including some (links) which recently got lost in cyberspace...

A must see web site by Laszlo Baranyi,

Somebody's listening

By Duncan Campbell, New Statesman,
12 August 1988

In the booming surveillance industry they spy on whom they wish, when they wish, protected by barriers of secrecy, fortified by billions of pounds worth of high, high technology. Duncan Campbell reports from the United States on the secret Anglo-American plan for a global electronic spy system for the 21st century capable of listening in to most of us most of the time

American, British and Allied intelligence agencies are soon to embark on a massive, billion-dollar expansion of their global electronic surveillance system. According to information given recently in secret to the US Congress, the surveillance system will enable the agencies to monitor and analyse civilian communications into the 21st century. Identified for the moment as Project P415, the system will be run by the US National Security Agency (NSA). But the intelligence agencies of many other countries will be closely involved with the new network, including those from Britain, Australia, Germany and Japan--and, surprisingly, the People's Republic of China. (full text)

 Insight on the news Online  Insight Magazine: APEC - Espionage

Did Clinton Bug Conclave for Cash?
By Timothy W. Maier
Issue date 9/15/97

Such a scenario might make sense if you were a mobster or a spy or a terrorist on whom the government needs to conduct such surveillance to protect the country from crime, espionage, or acts of terror. But what if this scene -- extended to hundreds of hotel suites and meeting rooms in a major coastal city -- occurred during an international conference of world leaders hosted by the president of the United States of America?
. . . . Insight has been told that this is exactly what happened in 1993 in Seattle during a five-day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, conference, in which leaders of about 15 nations gathered to discuss the future of trade and security issues involving the United States and our Pacific partners.
. . . . "There were bugs placed in over 300 locations," says a high-level source with detailed knowledge about the extraordinary top-secret operation run by the FBI in conjunction with intelligence personnel from the National Security Agency, or NSA, and the Office of Naval Intelligence, among many others. (full text)

Snoops, Sex and Videotape
By Timothy W. Maier
Issue date 9/29/97

Intelligence sources say Clinton ordered bugging of his summit guests and that information obtained on international deals was provided through cutouts to enrich corporate friends of the DNC.
. . . . But what does come as a surprise is an apparent failure by federal law-enforcement and intelligence authorities to pursue allegations of kickbacks to FBI agents involved in the sweeping intelligence operation and separate allegations involving underage boys provided as prostitutes to visiting dignitaries attending the weeklong November conference of 15 Asia-Pacific nations.
. . . . One reason for the alleged coverup -- and that may be the only term appropriate, according to high officials in and out of government who claim direct and indirect knowledge of the APEC bugging -- is that those said to have engaged in kickbacks involving thousands of dollars include FBI agents through suppliers with whom they worked to procure electronic audio- and video-surveillance equipment.
. . . . As for the allegations of juvenile prostitution, sources who spoke to Insight on the condition they not be further identified say the reason these "crimes" were not pursued is that a probe would have exposed the Top Secret national-security operation.
. . . . Put on the record, it is a different story... (full text).

Snooping on Allies Embarrasses U.S.
By Timothy W. Maier
Issue date 10/20/97

The Clinton camp ducks alleged bugging of Seattle summit, Insight discovers State Department 'pimp' account and foreign embassies express shock about FBI-led espionage caper.
. . . . The covert mission was so large that the government purchased about $250,000 in electronic surveillance equipment, including Konica cameras, from at least three private suppliers, according to classified records reviewed by Insight. American spies then collected raw economic data on Asian businesses through agents of the FBI, the Customs Service, Naval Intelligence, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, the NSC, and the National Security Agency, or NSA, sources say.
. . . . The FBI is believed to have bugged more than 300 locations, with electronic audio and video surveillance devices used to monitor 10,000 to 15,000 conversations -- much of it real-time data that was bounced from satellites to the NSA. The monitoring stations usually were placed near a Secret Service perimeter or Naval Intelligence facilities. And many of the targets concerned large contracts with Vietnam, sources say.
. . . . Larry Klayman, executive director of Judicial Watch, a private legal watchdog group suing the Commerce Department for trade records, suggests the bugging may be related to a possible surveillance operation on the late commerce secretary Ron Brown, suspected of taking bribes involving Vietnam contracts. But that alone doesn't explain how the DNC could have ended up with top-secret information. (full text)

United States spying on European citizens
A European Commission report warns

Big Brother is Watching

A new report commissioned by the European Parliament has officially confirmed the existence of what it says is a gigantic electronic spy network that monitors almost all phone, fax and other electronic communications...

Simon Davies: Spies like US
The Daily Telegraph,
Dec. 16, 1997 (Issue 936)
Copyright Telegraph Group Limited 1997.

A European Commission report warns that the United States has developed an extensive network spying on European citizens and we should all be worried. Simon Davies reports

A GLOBAL electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, email and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report to be delivered this week.

The report - Assessing the Technologies of Political Control - was commissioned last year by the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament. It contains details of a network of American-controlled intelligence stations on British soil and around the world, that "routinely and indiscriminately" monitor countless phone, fax and email messages.

It states: "Within Europe all email, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency transfering all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill in the North York moors in the UK."

The report confirms for the first time the existence of the secretive ECHELON system.

Until now, evidence of such astounding technology has been patchy and anecdotal. But the report - to be discussed on Thursday by the committee of the office of Science and Technology Assessment in Luxembourg - confirms that the citizens of Britain and other European states are subject to an intensity of surveillance far in excess of that imagined by most parliaments. Its findings are certain to excite the concern of MEPs.

"The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system ( See also: Cooking up a charter for snooping) but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON is designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.

The ECHELON system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and then siphoning out what is valuable using artificial intelligence aids like MEMEX to find key words".

According to the report, ECHELON uses a number of national dictionaries containing key words of interest to each country.

For more than a decade, former agents of US, British, Canadian and New Zealand national security agencies have claimed that the monitoring of electronic communications has become endemic throughout the world. Rumours have circulated that new technologies have been developed which have the capability to search most of the world's telex, fax and email networks for "key words". Phone calls, they claim, can be automatically analysed for key words.

Former signals intelligence operatives have claimed that spy bases controlled by America have the ability to search nearly all data communications for key words. They claim that ECHELON automatically analyses most email messaging for "precursor" data which assists intelligence agencies to determine targets. According to former Canadian Security Establishment agent Mike Frost, a voice recognition system called Oratory has been used for some years to intercept diplomatic calls.

The driving force behind the report is Glyn Ford, Labour MEP for Greater Manchester East. He believes that the report is crucial to the future of civil liberties in Europe.

"In the civil liberties committee we spend a great deal of time debating issues such as free movement, immigration and drugs. Technology always sits at the centre of these discussions. There are times in history when technology helps democratise, and times when it helps centralise. This is a time of centralisation. The justice and home affairs pillar of Europe has become more powerful without a corresponding strengthening of civil liberties."

The report recommends a variety of measures for dealing with the increasing power of the technologies of surveillance being used at Menwith Hill and other centres. It bluntly advises: "The European Parliament should reject proposals from the United States for making private messages via the global communications network (Internet) accessible to US intelligence agencies."

The report also urges a fundamental review of the involvement of the American NSA ( National Security Agency) in Europe, suggesting that their activities be either scaled down, or become more open and accountable.

Such concerns have been privately expressed by governments and MEPs since the Cold War, but surveillance has continued to expand. US intelligence activity in Britain has enjoyed a steady growth throughout the past two decades. The principal motivation for this rush of development is the US interest in commercial espionage. In the Fifties, during the development of the "special relationship" between America and Britain, one US institution was singled out for special attention.

European Union and FBI Launch
Global Surveillance System

Statewatch warns about
connections to ECHELON

One of the references in the report to the European parliament is a report from Statewatch on " European Union and FBI Launch Global Surveillance System", (24 Feb 1997). EU and FBI should have made an agreement on big scale interception in Europe in order to catch criminals. Statewatch warns about connections to the existing Echelon-system.
The ECHELON "...system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and using computers to identify and extract messages from the mass of unwanted ones."
"It is the interface of the ECHELON system and its potential development on phone calls combined with the standardisation of "tappable" telecommunications centres and equipment being sponsored by the EU and the USA which presents a truly global threat over which there are no legal or democratic controls. "
Wiretaps: Europe is launching a universal wiretap network (April 14, 1997, bulletin lambda 3.02)
"The British watchdog group Statewatch revealed confidential documents from the European Union's intergovernmental meetings that show a global wiretapping system is under way among Europe, the United States and other industrialized countries."


December 1991
A meeting of the Trevi Ministers decide a study should be carried out on the new telecommunications systems and "the different interception possibilities".
29-30 November 1993
The first meeting of the new, post-Maastricht, Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers meeting in Brussels adopt a Resolution calling on experts to compare the needs of the EU "with those of the FBI".
March, April, November and December 1994
The K4 Committee discusses the draft Resolution on the lawful interception of telecommunications and the "Requirements" to be placed on network and service providers.
March 1994
The Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers discuss the draft Resolution.

November 1994
The K4 Committee discusses the draft "Memorandum of Understanding with third countries".
9 January 1995
The Working Group on Police Cooperation, under the K4 Committee, considers a report on the need to "tag" all communications.
17 January 1995
The Resolution is adopted by "written procedure". It is not published in any form until 4 November 1996 when it appears in the Official Journal.
13 November 1995
The Working Group on Police Cooperation consider a report on the situation in each EU state on telephone tapping.
23 November 1995
The Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers agree the "Memorandum of Understanding". It is not published in any form.
December 1995
COREPER agree the text of a letter to be sent to international standards bodies attaching the Resolution.
7 May 1996
Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, tells the Chair of the Select Committee on the European Communities in the House of Lords that the "Memorandum of UndersChair of the Select Committee on the European Communities in the House of Lords that
28 November 1996
The Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers agree the text of a letter to be sent out to other potential "participants" (countries) in the "Memorandum of Understanding".

Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers
Set up under Title VI, Article K, of the Maastricht Treaty. First meet on 29 November 1993 when it took over from the Trevi Group and the Ad Hoc Group on Immigration.
K4 Committee
Also set up under the Maastricht Treaty to coordinate the work on the "third pillar" - policing, immigration and asylum, and legal cooperation. Is comprised of senior officials from Interior Ministries and prepares report to go to the Council.
Under the K4 Committee there are three Steering Groups covering policing and customs, immigration and asylum, and legal cooperation (civil and criminal) to which a series of Working Groups report.
The Committee of Permanent Representatives from each EU state based in Brussels.

Copyright: Statewatch, February 1997. Material in this report may be used provided the source is acknowledged.
Statewatch, PO Box 1516, London N16 0EW. tel: 00 44 181 802 1882, fax: 00 44 181 880 1727

One of NSA bases, Menwith Hill, England, was to become the biggest spy station in the world. Its ears - known as radomes - are capable of listening in to vast chunks of the communications spectrum throughout Europe and the old Soviet Union.

In its first decade the base sucked data from cables and microwave links running through a nearby Post Office tower, but the communications revolutions of the Seventies and Eighties gave the base a capability that even its architects could scarcely have been able to imagine. With the creation of Intelsat and digital telecommunications, Menwith and other stations developed the capability to eavesdrop on an extensive scale on fax, telex and voice messages. Then, with the development of the Internet, electronic mail and electronic commerce, the listening posts were able to increase their monitoring capability to eavesdrop on an unprecedented spectrum of personal and business communications.

This activity has been all but ignored by the UK Parliament. When Labour MPs raised questions about the activities of the NSA, the Government invoked secrecy rules. It has been the same for 40 years.
(full text)

Winslow Peck, former NSA analyst, interview on NSA electronic interception, (1972 )

The Puzzle Palace

A Report on America's Most Secret Agency

By James Bamford, Penguin, London, 1983

Excerpts at JYA/Urban Deadline web site:
Chapter 8 - Partners
Chapter 9 - Competition
Chapter 10 - Abyss

Deep Black: Space Espionage and National Security

By William Burrows, Random House, New York, 1987

Excerpt at JYA/Urban Deadline web site:
Chapter 8 - Foreign Bases: A Net Spread Wide

Space: intelligence technology's embattled frontier

By Loring Wirbel

Menwith Hill

The U.S. Intelligence Community

By Jeffrey T. Richelson, Ballinger, New York,1989

Excerpts at JYA/Urban Deadline web site:
Chapter 8 - Signals Intelligence
Chaper 12 - Exchange and Liaison Arrangements

Report on UKUSA cooperation

1996 Intelligence Online