Exactly a decade ago today, the Berlin Wall fell and "free" people streamed across the border, overjoyed that they could now participate in what they thought was a "democracy." Think what another decade has now bought:
I received this most interesting article about Echelon, the highly sophisticated Canadian-based spy system. Think about the quotes below every time you pick up a phone, send an e-mail, or ship a fax to a lover, a friend or a business associate.
The article was titled "Echelon Project, communism & your freedom," and its title referenced as "National & International Communications Interceptions Networks."
No authorship was given. I have deleted all technical jargon and simply quote from it selectively those sentences and paragraphs the average person can understand and reflect on. I invite your input on what such a might mean.
* "Modern communications systems are virtually transparent to the advanced interceptions equipment which can be used to listen in. Some systems even lend themselves to a dual role as a national interceptions network."
* "What is not widely known is that built in to the international ... protocol is the ability to take phones 'off hook' and listen into conversations occurring near the phone, without the user being aware that it is happening."
* This effectively means that a national dial up telephone tapping capacity is built into these systems from the start."
* Similarly, the digital technology required to pinpoint mobile phone users for incoming calls, means that all mobile phone users in a country when activated, are mini-tracking devices, giving their owners whereabouts at any time and stored in the company's computer for up to two years."
* Within Europe, all email, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring 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 of the UK."
* "Other work on what is now known as Signals intelligence was undertaken by researchers such as James Bamford, which uncovered a billion dollar world wide interceptions network, which he nicknamed 'Puzzle Palace."
* The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the cold war, ECHELON is designed for primarily non- military targets: governments, organisations 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. Five nations share the results with the US as the senior partner under the UKUSA agreement of 1948, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia are very much acting as subordinate information servicers."
* Each of the five centres supply "dictionaries" to the other four of keywords, Phrases, people and places to "tag" and the tagged intercept is forwarded straight to the requesting country."
* (One investigator named) Hager found that by far the main priorities of this system continued to be military and political intelligence applicable to their wider interests. Hager quotes from a "highly placed intelligence operatives" who spoke to the Observer in London. "We feel we can no longer remain silent regarding that which we regard to be gross malpractice and negligence within the establishment in which we operate." They gave as examples. GCHQ interception of three charities, including Amnesty International and Christian Aid.
* "With no system of accountability, it is difficult to discover what criteria determine who is not a target."
* "Official reports say that the EU governments agreed to co-operate closely with the FBI in Washington. Yet earlier minutes of these meetings suggest that the original initiative came from Washington. According to Statewatch, network and service providers in the EU will be obliged to install "tappable" systems and to place under surveillance any person or group when served with an interception order."
* "These plans have never been referred to any European government for scrutiny, nor one suspects to the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament, despite the clear civil liberties issues raised by such an unaccountable system. I am told that the USA, Australia, Canada, Norway and Hong Kong have already signed up. All these bar Norway are parties to the ECHELON system and it is impossible to determine there are not other agendas at work here. Nothing is said about finance of this system but a report produced by the German government estimates that the mobile phone part of the package alone will cost 4 billion D-marks."
" In conclusion, "It is the interface of the ECHELON system and its potential development on phone calls combined with the standardisation of "tappable communications 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."
Thought for the Day:
"The refusal of the British and the Russians to accept what appeared to be inevitable defeat was the great factor in the salvage of our civilization."
(So claimed George Catlett Marshall, in his Biennial Report of the Chiefs of Staff, United States Army, September 1, 1945)
Back to Table of Contents of the Nov. 1999 ZGrams