Update – 6:10 a.m. CT Tuesday 8 July 2014: This was originally published about a year ago. Because of renewed interest in it, I’m republishing it here.
Special Posting and Editorial Article by Jim Lantern, 7:00 a.m. CT Wednesday 19 June 2013
On Sunday 27 February 2000, CBS News 60 Minutes did a special report with proof about the NSA spying on Americans, including emails and phone calls, with a top secret program known as Echelon, the Darth Vader father of today’s top secret program known as PRISM.
How quickly we forget! History repeats itself! I knew there’s something familiar about the recent claim of Edward Snowden that the NSA is spying on Americans, including emails and phone calls. I remembered a news story about it that was broadcast at least 10 years ago, but exactly when and by which news source I did not right away remember. Finally, after I got up this morning and had a cup of reviving coffee, I remembered enough to conduct and effective Internet search. Much to my surprise, I found it. I’m surprised it hasn’t been deleted as part of a present day cover-up. I’m surprised CBS News has not yet referred back to the 60 Minutes story back in 2000, since it clearly relates to the present day controversy set off by Edward Snowden. This is it people. It was already exposed once before. All that Edward Snowden has done is to remind us that it is still there, bigger than Orwell’s “1984” Big Brother, watching everyone!
Here’s a link to the CBS News article…
…And because I’m concerned it could end up being deleted to hide it because of the present day concerns, I’m going to provide excerpts here from most of it…
Ex-Snoop Confirms Echelon Network
- Global Network Monitors Phones And Email
- Former Agent Tells ’60 Minutes’ How It Works
- Network Sifts ‘Good Guys’ And Bad
Everywhere in the world, every day, people’s phone calls, emails and faxes are monitored by Echelon, a secret government surveillance network. No, it’s not fiction straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. It’s reality, says former spy Mike Frost* in an interview with Steve Kroft to be broadcast on 60 Minutes on Sunday, Feb. 27. 
“It’s not the world of fiction. That’s the way it works. I’ve been there,” Frost tells Kroft. “I was trained by you guys,” says the former Canadian intelligence agent, referring to the United States’ National Security Agency.
The NSA runs Echelon with Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand as a series of listening posts around the world that eavesdrop on terrorists, drug lords and hostile foreign governments.
But to find out what the bad guys are up to, all electronic communications, including those of the good guys, must be captured and analyzed for key words by super computers.
That is a fact that makes Frost uncomfortable, even though he believes the world needs intelligence gathering capabilities like Echelon. “My concern is no accountability and nothing, no safety net in place for the innocent people who fall through the cracks,” he tells Kroft.
As an example of those innocent people, Frost cites a woman whose name and telephone number went into the Echelon database as a possible terrorist because she told a friend on the phone that her son had “bombed” in a school play. “The computer spit that conversation out. The analystwas not too sure what the conversation was referring to, so, erring on the side of caution, he listed that lady,” Frost recalls.
Democracies usually have laws against spying on citizens. But Frost says Echelon members could ask another member to spy for them in an end run around those laws.
American politicians may also have been eavesdropped on, says Margaret Newsham, a woman who worked at Menwith Hill in England, the NSA’s largest spy station. She says she was shocked to hear the voice of U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond (R.-S.C.) on a surveillance headset about 20 years ago. “To my knowledge, all (the intercepted voices)…would be…Russian, Chinese… foreign,” she tells Kroft.
On Feb. 23, the European Parliament issued a report accusing the U.S. of using Echelon for commercial spying on two separate occasions, to help American companies win lucrative contracts over European competitors. The U.S. State Department denies such spying took place and will not even acknowledge the existence of the top secret Echelon project.
Rep. Porter Goss (R.-Fla), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which has oversight of the NSA, does acknowledge that the U.S. has the capability to pick up any phone call, and that even his own conversations could have been monitored.
…MORE AT THESE LINKS…
THE BULLETIN OF THE ATOMIC SCIENTISTS http://web.archive.org/web/20000408170601/http://www.bullatomsci.org/issues/2000/ma00/ma00richelson.html
From March/April 2000
The fear that “big brother” might be monitoring our private communications is not new. It’s no wonder that when a January 1998 report to the European Parliament, An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control, claimed that “within Europe, all e-mail, telephone, and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland . . . to Fort Meade in Maryland,” it triggered a political controversy that continues to this day.
The study also asserted that the key to the eavesdropping operation was a system code-named “Echelon,” designed to indiscriminately intercept the non-military communications of governments, private organizations, and businesses on behalf of the United States and its primary partners in the decades-old UKUSA signals intelligence alliance–Britain, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Items of intelligence value are selected by computer identification of keywords provided by the UKUSA nations.
In response to extensive press coverage across Europe, the European Parliament commissioned a second report that focused exclusively on Echelon and communications intelligence. Sweden’s foreign minister promised to investigate whether Swedish companies were harmed by U.S. spying. Last October, activists on both sides of the Atlantic participated in “Jam Echelon Day” by sending a high volume of communications containing words, such as “terrorism,” which they expected to be on the keyword list, in hopes of overloading the system.
The Australian and New Zealand public have also taken an interest. And in the United States, the conservative Free Congress Foundation issued a report on the topic titled Echelon: America’s Secret Global Surveillance Network. The American Civil Liberties Union maintains an “Echelon Watch” section on its web site, at http://www.aclu.org/ echelonwatch. The controversy has even reached into the halls of Congress, where Cong. Porter Goss of Florida, the Republican chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, requested that the National Security Agency (NSA provide internal documents that would help reassure the committee that U.S. signals intelligence activities are not violating the privacy rights of Americans. Meanwhile, at the instigation of Republican Cong. Bob Barr of Georgia, hearings are scheduled for the current session of Congress to explore that issue.
That the UKUSA alliance, particularly as a result of U.S. efforts, operates an electronic eavesdropping network with global reach should come as no surprise. The National Reconnaissance Office maintains a constellation of geosynchronous, elliptically orbiting, and low-earth orbiting satellites that intercept communications, missile telemetry, and radar emanations. Civilian and military personnel run satellite ground stations in Britain, Germany, Australia, and Colorado which control the satellites and receive the intercepted signals. The Air Combat Command and the navy fly a variety of planes equipped to scoop up communications and other electronic signals. Nor has the end of the Cold War led to the termination of ship-based signals intelligence collection or submarine reconnaissance operations–including operations to tap undersea cables.
Ground intercept sites also continue to be part of the eavesdropping network. While the United States closed down a number of stations in the aftermath of the Cold War–particularly those that intercepted high-frequency military communications–ground sites still form an important part of the UKUSA network. One particular set of ground stations is devoted to the interception of satellite communications–or the “COMSAT intercept mission.”
According to much of the press coverage, Echelon is the code word for the UKUSA “global surveillance network.” But it is not, nor is there any code word for the overall U.S. or UKUSA “SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) apparatus. Rather, the U.S. system is known as the United States Sigint System (USSS).
Echelon is, however, very real. Its existence was first revealed by British investigative reporter Duncan Campbell in an August 12, 1988 New Statesman article. In 1996, New Zealand peace activist Nicky Hager provided a detailed description of the program in his book, Secret Power: New Zealand’s Role in the International Spy Network, an extraordinary examination of New Zealand’s SIGINT agency and its place in the UKUSA alliance. Virtually all reporting, including the original report to the European Parliament, is derived from these works. Unfortunately, much of the reporting does not accurately reflect what Campbell and Hager wrote.
The Echelon system that Hager describes links together computers, known as “dictionaries,” at UKUSA ground stations. Those computers contain, for each of the cooperating agencies, a list of keywords whose appearance in any intercepted message makes the message an item of interest to the agency. The computers automatically search through millions of intercepted messages for the ones containing the pre-programmed keywords and then ship the selected messages off to the computers of the requesting agency.
Before Echelon appeared in the 1970s, the agencies shared intelligence, but they usually processed and analyzed the intercepted communications. As a result, most exchanges involved finished reports rather than raw intercepts. Echelon, on the other hand, is an integrated network that allows the agencies to specify which intercepts are of interest and to receive them automatically via computer. A key question, then, is which UKUSA ground stations are part of the Echelon network?
COMSAT intercept sites are clearly part of that network. Almost 20 years ago, author James Bamford revealed in The Puzzle Palace that NSA-operated antennas at Sugar Grove, West Virginia, and Yakima, Washington, targeted the signals to and from INTELSAT communications satellites. Just 60 miles from Sugar Grove, at Etam, West Virginia, telephone calls, telegrams, and telexes arriving from or destined for 134 countries passed through an array of satellite dishes. The NSA operation at the obscure Yakima Firing Range, Bamford reported, was conveniently located 100 miles south of a similar station in north-central Washington.
Today [March/April 2000], Sugar Grove hosts both navy and air force SIGINT units that operate four satellite antennas targeted on the communications flowing in and out of the Etam ground station. The mission of the air force unit was described in the 1998-99 Air Intelligence Agency Almanac as providing “enhanced intelligence support to air force operational commanders and other consumers of COMSAT information.” That Sugar Grove is part of the Echelon program is clear from declassified Naval Security Group Command regulation C5450.48A, which notes that one of the duties of Sugar Grove’s commander is to “maintain and operate an Echelon site.”
The air force unit at Sugar Grove is a detachment of the Air Intelligence Agency’s 544th Intelligence Group; Yakima and Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico (another COMSAT intercept site), host detachments from the 544th IG,evidence that they are also part of the Echelon network. More evidence is provided by the official History of the Air Intelligence Agency (AIA) for 1994, which contains a section titled “Activation of Echelon Units.” That section noted that, in 1994, the AIA, NSA, and the navy’s SIGINT agency “drafted agreements to increase AIA participation in the growing [deleted, but apparently ‘civilian communications’] mission” and that AIA was to establish detachments of the 544th Intelligence Group to accomplish that objective.
The other partners to the UKUSA agreement do not have the resources or incentive to maintain an array of SIGINT systems similar to those of the United States. But they can and do operate COMSAT intercept sites. Even tiny New Zealand has a modern intercept facility on its east coast at Waihopai. Hager reports that the station, operational since 1989, consists of a services building, two satellite dishes under large radomes, and an operations building. If there was any doubt about what was going on at the facility, it was dispelled when a television reporter entered the station and filmed close-ups of INTELSAT technical manuals held in the control center, as Duncan Campbell wrote in his 1999 report to the European Parliament, Interception Capabilities 2000.
Meanwhile, Australia operates a more extensive intercept facility at Geraldton in western Australia. When Geraldton opened in 1993 it had four intercept dishes targeted on INTELSATs orbiting above the Indian Ocean and Pacific. Among the keywords in the Geraldton dictionary are ones related to North Korea’s economic, diplomatic, and military situation, Japanese trade ministry plans, and developments in Pakistani nuclear weapons technology. Another Australian intercept site, at Shoal Bay on the northern-central coast, began operating in late 1979, with two dishes targeted on Indonesian communications satellites. Shoal Bay is not, however, part of the Echelon network, as Australia refuses to share the raw intercepts with the United States and Britain.
…IT GOES ON AND ON AND ON.
There’s no end to the madness. Echelon continues today, 19 June 2013, in the form of the top secret NSA program known as PRISM.
Edward Snowden has told the truth. We need only remember what it is, since it was already revealed once before.
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* Mike Frost is also interviewed by The History Channel in Part 3 of its series about Echelon…
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