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COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
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December 16, 1999
Security agency's eavesdropping fuels network paranoia
Posted on 11/24/1999 16:54:27 PST by Antiwar Republican
Published Wednesday, November 24, 1999, in the San Jose Mercury News
The opinion of the Mercury News
Security agency's eavesdropping network fuels paranoia
Take hard look at eye in the sky
FOR decades, Congress has funded a vast secret surveillance system without knowing what it is or
does. Now, at Europe's prodding, Congress is beginning to wake up to the dark implications.
The system, known as ECHELON, may be indiscriminately intercepting much of the
world's telephone, e-mail and fax communications. Reports prepared for the European
Parliament claim it routinely spies on international dissident groups, and commits industrial espionage
against European competitors --
allegations largely based on interviews with sources not publicly identified.
If true, computers routinely may be monitoring millions of phone and electronic conversations daily,
hunting for phrases, perhaps even individual voices, they are programmed to capture. If true,
ECHELON may be circumventing the federal law forbidding eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without
probable cause. If true, ECHELON has made real some of Hollywood's most fantastic scripts.
``Right now Echelon is a black box, and we really don't know what is inside it,'' Barry Steinhardt,
associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union, has said.
The National Security Agency runs ECHELON out of its headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., where it's
reported to have five acres of computers underground. With twice the number of
employees and a far bigger budget than the CIA, the NSA has fed civil libertarians' fears and
European paranoia. It has refused to confirm publicly that ECHELON exists. And last summer, it
stonewalled an inquiry by the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
With suspicions aroused, Congress has demanded answers. It inserted language
in the just-passed federal budget giving the NSA 60 days to spell out the legal standards for
intercepting communications at home and abroad. And Rep. Bob Barr, a Georgia Republican and former CIA employee, has vowed to hold hearings on ECHELON next year.
This much is known: The NSA operates ECHELON in conjunction with counterparts
in Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. Through a global network of satellites,
radio antennae and sniffing devices, the system can tap into correspondences and data transmissions of businesses, governments and individuals. High-speed computers using
key word searches and speech recognition technologies allow the agencies to sift through massive amounts of information.
It is questionable whether ECHELON is capable of intercepting all of Europe's phone and fax
lines, as the European Parliament report alleges. The proliferation of cell phones and
the spread of encryption will complicate that ambition, if it exists.
NSA supporters say that the agency is complying with U.S. law and restricting
its role to national security interests. But the reports on ECHELON do raise alarms and may
point to weaknesses in federal laws banning spying, with few exceptions, on Americans.
Those protections, in response to revelations about CIA improprieties in the
'70s, predate the Internet and may not cover electronic communications. They
may also be ineffective in regulating a global communications network. For
example, it's unclear whether the NSA would be precluded from
receiving trans-Atlantic communications that the British download at a
satellite center. There also are questions of what the NSA does with information
it inadvertently gathers on corruption or illegality.
Technology is making private electronic and phone communications vulnerable to
government surveillance. Cracking the NSA's code of silence on ECHELON will help
expose the extent of the threat.
Press Conference with the Director
Zvezdochka Ship Yard in Russia
Personally, I thought I'd never live to see or read anything like this.
For younger folks Im sure this is old hat however, in these old shoes
this is a path I never dreamed we'd walk.
Ellis Smith - North American Desk
Environmental and Sociological
WELFARE REFORM AND ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
My 2 cents on welfare reform, like you
really need my 2 cents
worth, is i'd rather see people paid to stay at home and teach
their children well then offloading them onto a system thats
indifferent, morality/spiritually free and leaving them alone
without supervision. Forcing parents to abandon and put
off their responsiblity to raise conscious, productive,
and responsible adults because of economic mandate
to be productive when in fact, they already are by insuring
that the future labour force is brought up right is criminal.
imho. Its not unlike Brazil. If they were to be paid for their
oxygen production/contribution to the planetary atmosphere
not only would they not have the economic mandate to
strip the rain forest for agricultural production but would
have enough economic resources to expand their industries
into more cost effective and productive areas that are
more ecologically sound. The failure to address reality
on a planetary scale, whether it be macro-sociologically,
as in booting welfare recipents to the work force w/o
regard to the long term consequences (teenage suicide,
crime/violence, illiteracy and drug/alchohol abuse, teen
age child-birth and then hence to a career in the penal
systems which then provides cheap inexpensive labour
that undermines the free market as in California) or
macro-econconomically as in the Brazillian example
where the current polcy exponetially increases the speed
of our eventual and certain plantary extinction by undermining
O2 production while dirty industry exponetially increases the
CO2 production is fundamentally what we are trying to address
in a very round about way. The methods and approach
has been backwards for far too long and we're running
of time. What was refreshing was hearing at the UN and
from the World Bank no less that they've finally come to
the realization of this and are now sincerely making an
effort to complete reverse the approach. That is rather
then embracing industrialized society and seeking to
"help" indigenous cultures throughout the globe, rather;
embracing indigenous cultures and seeking to help
industrial societies. Who'd a thought one would live
long enough to hear a banker talk like that. Anyway,
as in the micro, the macro and vice a versa.
I think, personally that macro-society needs to invest
in individuals and insure that the focus is towards the
successful production of civilized and contributive
work force in the long term rather then accomodating
short term economic productive goals for the immediate
term. Investing in daycare centers accomodates
adults short term goals but neglects children and our
long term productivity. Mass produced, intechangeable
part- industrial produced child rearing doesn't work as
the Soviet Union found out by trial and collapse. Our
results due to the inherent different sociological climate
has had far deadlier results. From Littleton Co. to
the number of missing children, teenage gang violence
to suicides you'd think someone, somewhere would
get a clue that investing in the parents to stay at
home and care for them would be obvious. In
the same vein, you'd think that someone, somewhere
would finally wake up and realize that O2 production
is tne NO 1 priority of nations that have the capacity
to do so and should be economically rewarded for|
Anyway, thats this bathrobes view of it.
Ellis Smith - North American Desk
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