Echelon: See, I told you so
© 1999 WorldNetDaily.com
For more than two years, I've been chronicling the manifestations of the Echelon global spying network. During that time, there have been more than a few skeptics who suggested I had visited Area 51 one too many times.
For those of you who don't believe anything that can't be confirmed without official government sources, you now have your proof that Echelon is real -- that there really is a global spy network that can eavesdrop on every single phone call, fax or e-mail, anywhere on the planet.
The BBC (that's the British Broadcasting Company, a semi-official news agency in the United Kingdom) has just such confirmation from the Australian government that Echelon exists and that officials in the U.S. are beginning to call for an investigation. For the record, the governments of Britain and the United States still officially deny its existence.
With listening posts around the world, Echelon is controlled and managed by the National Security Agency at Fort Mead, Md. Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism.
Now, the man who oversees Australia's security services, Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Bill Blick, has confirmed to the BBC that their Defense Signals Directorate does form part of the network.
But Echelon gathers up and analyzes far more information than just terrorist and criminal threats. By its nature, the system is so widespread all sorts of private communications, often of a sensitive commercial nature, are recorded and processed.
It has taken awhile for this civil liberties threat to be acknowledged, but finally it has been.
Among those in the United States taking it seriously is Rep. Bob Barr, whose staff and constituency have made the congressman aware of other stories first broken on WorldNetDaily.com. About the BBC report and the Echelon confirmation by the Australian government, he says, "This statement by Australia's intelligence service acknowledges the operation of a system the existence of which has already become apparent based on independent reports. It is disappointing that America, which prizes its devotion to individual liberty and privacy, allowed another nation to lead the way in publicly disclosing these activities."
Amen to that.
"As a former intelligence officer, I support legitimate intelligence activities. However, I also believe Congress has a duty to make absolutely certain the massive capabilities our intelligence agencies have developed, are allowed to be used only with adequate safeguards against abuse. The massive technological changes that have occurred since the last significant update of our foreign intelligence surveillance laws, mean our existing legal structure is not adequately protecting the privacy rights of Americans. My concerns in this area are heightened by the reluctance of intelligence agencies to fully cooperate with congressional oversight. This acknowledgment underscores the need for open public hearings on the legal standards intelligence agencies use when they intercept the communications of American citizens. If these reports are accurate, the sheer power and potential for abuse created by Project Echelon demands congressional attention."
Of course, he's right. The only problem is that this Congress has no track record of successful investigations into matters of such importance. Is this the abuse that will wake members from their complacent slumber?
We can only hope. It's good news that Barr is making inquiries and issuing protests. He's a former CIA official, as well as being a former U.S. attorney who now serves on the House Judiciary and Government Reform committees. Earlier this year, he successfully amended intelligence legislation to require the NSA, CIA and Justice Department to report on the legal standards they use to collect intelligence. This legislation remains in a House-Senate conference committee awaiting action.
It's also good news that Echelon, thanks to another major achievement of the New Media, is now on the public's radar screen when the public has, for so long, been on Echelon's.
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