In April of 1998 I wrote here "Privacy has become an anachronism." I warned of "a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more." I was writing about Echelon, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system is so "efficient" that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade can work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval or disclosing the operation.
Back in early 1998 WorldNetDaily was in its infancy. More people listened to my daily radio talk show than had ever heard of WorldNetDaily. WorldNetDaily was more than a dream but less than a fully formed embryo. When we exposed Echelon it was viewed skeptically and cynically as "more right wing conspiracy stuff." Well guess what? The allegedly venerable CBS "60 Minutes" has placed their imprimatur on chilling reality. Steve Kroft scored an interview with a once-upon-a-time-spook, Mike Frost. Frost confirms, "Everywhere in the world, every day, people's phone calls, e-mails and faxes are monitored by Echelon, a secret government surveillance network." Where did we hear that before?
It may have been easy for the masters of the game to rationalize and justify the presumed necessity of the Echelon snooping as long as they were merely trying to combat international terrorism. Data interdiction and resource management sound "official" and ... cool. However, when the realities of the warts and blemishes are seen without the masking of cheesecloth and soft focus, "Katie bar the door!"
Kathryn Graham, owner of the Washington Post, in November of 1988 reportedly told a group of CIA recruits, "There are some things the general public does not need to know ... and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep it secret, and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows." Implied, but not stated in Madam Graham's statement is the "when" factor. If muckrakers and gadflies and the European press could, and did, report about Echelon, why is "60 Minutes" only just now "breaking" the story?
Electronic warfare countermeasures may be sold as necessary evils in eavesdropping on drug lords, rogue nation-states and terrorists of assorted stripes. However, there are problems with letting a genie out of the bottle. Not the least of which are control, mitigation and security.
Historically governments can, and do, get away with doing bad stuff because they treat the masses like mushrooms (keep them in the dark and feed them fertilizer). However, now Matt Drudge and Steve Kroft have confirmed what has been rumored for years: "Echelon Bombshell: NSA Accused of Spying on U.S. Politicians"
According to Margaret Newsham (who reportedly worked at England's notorious Menwith Hill, which is allegedly the largest National Security Agency spy data funnel), "American politicians have been eavesdropped on." Who says you can't end a sentence with a preposition? Margaret says she was shocked and amazed to hear the creaky, drawling articulations of the very senior southern Senator Strom Thurmond on her surveillance tape. Remember that political hack that was excoriated for having taped a cellular phone conversation of Newt Gingrich? That was a small yellow hole in a snow bank compared to this.
The European Parliament has had its panties in a bunch for years over what is or isn't happening under the covert mantel of Echelon. In fact, they are now accusing us (as in the U.S.) of commercial/industrial espionage. The U.S. State Department has assumed a Sergeant Schultz position of "We know noooooooooothing!"
In 1998 I said, "The real threat to the republic has, and will, come from international treaties." Echelon is arguably more of a threat than NAFTA, GATT's WTO, and gifting the communist Red Chinese with supercomputers.
The NSA runs Echelon with four Anglo cousins standing on the other corners of this pentagon communications net. However, in order to discover what the presumed dark side is conspiring, it is first "necessary" to suck up all electronic communications data before any triage. That means all data. Allegedly there are filters that are supposed to analyze "key words." However, some cyberwags are intentionally crafting key word-riddled transmissions intended to get sucked into the Echelon analysis labyrinth.
You can see some examples submitted by my radio listeners to an Echelon Writing contest at my website.
Meanwhile, here is my favorite. Forest wrote,
The privacy the founding fathers so cherished is becoming a footnote in history (that is, in those classes where pre-20th century history is even taught). Many are aware of the unbridled abuse of the alleged single-purpose Social Security number. We have legislators who have sworn a sacred oath to preserve and protect the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic -- who have in fact become domestic enemies.
It is illegal for the United States to spy on its citizens ... kinda. The laws have been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit of the law is inescapable. This system is called Echelon, and has been kicking around in some form longer than I have.
The London Telegraph reported in December of 1997 that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of Echelon. "A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. ..." The report noted, "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 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 ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system 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."
Technology's ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint, albeit interesting, dinosaur.
ago and far away, Adolf Hitler was talking to Hermann Rauschning and said,
"The people about us are unaware of what is really happening to them: They
gaze fascinated at one or two familiar superficialities, such as possession
and income and rank and other outworn conceptions. As long as these are
kept intact, they are quite satisfied. But in the meantime they have entered
a new relation: a powerful social force has caught them up. They themselves
are changed. What are ownership and income to that? Why need we trouble
to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings."