I learned a long time ago to notice changes. Changes indicate "something" and are in many ways a natural early warning device. We may not know at the time what that "something" is, but awareness leads to preparedness. If you sit in a forest, a swamp, or a jungle and actively "listen," you can easily identify a change. Background noise of birds and critters will get less, or increase; you can hear the difference. Something caused that change. Likewise most people can even smell a change. It might be the smell of a salt marsh at low tide, or a campfire or diesel engine. I've known guys who could smell the oil on a gun amongst assorted mountain fragrances. There is also what I believe to be a very real instinctive warning device designed I guess to spark the "fight or flee" reaction. The Godan (fifth degree black belt) test in one martial art requires the testee to kneel with his back to the teacher. The teacher "projects" a killing intention and swings a sword at the kneeling student's head. If the target head isn't there when the sword arrives, the student passes and is promoted.
April 20th of last year (1998) I wrote a WorldNetDaily column entitled "Big Brother Watching" that referred to a program called, "Echelon". Since then I have seen Echelon stories in a variety of magazines and European newspapers.
The movie, "Enemy of the State," although fiction, shed light on the real world realities of Echelon, and the unbridled assault on both the concept and essence of personal privacy.
Lawmakers in both the United States Congress and British Parliament are now asking questions I raised last year. Even the San Diego Union has written about Echelon: "Is the government listening in on your phone calls? Reading your e-mail for words like 'plutonium,' 'Clinton' or 'terrorism'?"
An eclectic and strange collection of distaff allies have joined the "What's the deal with Echelon" crowd. Congressman Bob Barr, himself a former CIA analyst, The European Parliament, and a gaggle of computer mavens calling themselves "hacktivists" are all looking into the what, where, when, why, and how of Echelon. They are not having joint board meetings, but they are pursuing similar objectives along fairly parallel lines. This Thursday the "hacktivists" are planning what may be the first mass protest using electronic mail as a weapon. It cannot be confirmed or denied that FBI Director Louis Freeh has bought out the entire D.C. stock of Imodium.
The target may sound more like something out of "The X-Files" than a real computer network operated by five countries. But it is real. Echelon is not officially acknowledged by the U.S. government despite more than ample documentation of the treaty that sparked it, and the facilities from Menwith Hill in England to Alexandria, Va. "We don't confirm or deny the existence of Echelon," said a spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Agency, although they are the agency believed tasked with operating the system.
The European Parliament started asking questions about Echelon last year. The European press has been reporting on it longer than I have. Yet again, either as a function of malfeasance or complicity, the United States mainstream has been silent.
Then Congressman Barr actually said the word ("Echelon") out loud on the floor of the House for God and everyone to hear.
As I noted last year, Echelon is a complex, interconnected worldwide network of satellites and computerized interception stations operated by the governments of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
According to Christopher Simpson, an American University professor who has written four books about national security technology, Echelon scans e-mail for hot-button words like "militia," "Davidian," "terrorism" and "AK-47." It can recognize individual voices in telephone calls and track who is calling whom.
I have often received e-mail with a long litany of "key words and phrases" (Death to the New World Order, Clinton, Butch Reno, Branch Davidians, TWA 800, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, Abolish the Federal Reserve, None Dare Call it Treason, Cocaine, AK-47, Stinger, Vince Foster, etc.) above a routine note such as "Like your column. Keep it up." When I asked, "Why the laundry list?" I was told it was a small protest intended to overburden the snoopers.
The European Parliament published an official report last year and concluded Echelon has listening posts all over the world that can intercept any phone calls, e-mail or faxes transmitted by satellite. "Echelon is designed for primarily nonmilitary targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country," the report said.
In May a follow up report said there is evidence that the U.S. government has used Echelon to pick up the secrets of foreign corporations and pass them on to American companies. Some of you may recall talk that when the Cold War allegedly ended, intelligence assets would shift focus from military to industrial espionage.
Congressman Barr has called for congressional hearings on Echelon. "By all appearances, what we have is a massive government program that scoops up unbelievably huge numbers of private communications, indiscriminately, without any oversight or court involvement," Barr said. "There's a very important, but fine, line between legitimate foreign intelligence gathering and unconstitutional eavesdropping on American citizens, and it appears that line has been crossed."
Concerns that Echelon could and would illegally intercept Americans' private communications sparked the ACLU to write to congressional representatives back in April. They said, "The troubling aspect is that Echelon is this huge system that operates without any oversight or scrutiny from anybody." THAT was and is the whole idea.
I'm not going to re-write last year's column again, you can check out the link. However, Echelon is the bastard child of the UKUSA Treaty. The primary purpose of the treaty AND Echelon was to maintain perception, and obscure reality.
"Here's the deal, Nigel: Let's set up an inter-connected information gathering apparatus. I'll spy on your citizens to determine if they mean us any ill, and you spy on my citizens to see if anyone is planning nastiness to your country. THEN I'll show you my data, and you show me your data. You'll know what's going on with your blokes, and I'll know what's happening with Joe-six-pack, and it's all legal ... kinda."
you sit in the shadows of the international intelligence jungle, you can
hear a change in the background noise, and the background silence. You
can smell "something" different. Right about now there are Echelon managers
and operatives who can feel that uncomfortable tingle? The same premonition
that martial artist feels just before the sword swings for his head ...
the same tingle a rat feels the heartbeat before the lurking cat springs.