[LINK] Global spy network revealed (fwd)

From Grant Bayley <gbayley@ausmac.net>
Date Wed, 3 Nov 1999 11:26:42 +1100 (EST)

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Global spy network revealed

Listening in to your phone calls and reading your emails

By Andrew Bomford of BBC Radio 4's PM programme

Imagine a global spying network that can eavesdrop on every
single phone call, fax or e-mail, anywhere on the planet.

It sounds like science fiction, but it's true.

Two of the chief protagonists - Britain and America - officially
deny its existence. But the BBC has confirmation from the
Australian Government that such a network really does exist and
politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are calling for an

On the North Yorkshire moors above Harrogate they can be seen for
miles, but still they are shrouded in secrecy. Around 30 giant
golf balls, known as radomes, rise from the US military base at
Menwith Hill.

Linked to the NSA

Inside is the world's most sophisticated eavesdropping
technology, capable of listening-in to satellites high above the
earth. The base is linked directly to the headquarters of the US
National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Mead in Maryland, and it
is also linked to a series of other listening posts scattered
across the world, like Britain's own GCHQ. The power of the
network, codenamed Echelon, is astounding.

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.

Open Oz

The network is so secret that the British and American
Governments refuse to admit that Echelon even exists. But another
ally, Australia, has decided not to be so coy.

The man who oversees Australia's security services, Inspector
General of Intelligence and Security Bill Blick, has confirmed to
the BBC that their Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) does form
part of the network.

"As you would expect there are a large amount of radio
communications floating around in the atmosphere, and agencies
such as DSD collect those communications in the interests of
their national security", he said.

Asked if they are then passed on to countries like Britain and
America, he said: "They might be in certain circumstances."

But the system is so widespread all sorts of private
communications, often of a sensitive commercial nature, are
hoovered up and analysed.

Journalist Duncan Campbell has spent much of his life
investigating Echelon. In a report commissioned by the European
Parliament he produced evidence that the NSA snooped on phone
calls from a French firm bidding for a contract in Brazil. They
passed the information on to an American competitor, which won
the contract.

"There's no safeguards, no remedies, " he said, "There's nowhere
you can go to say that they've been snooping on your
international communications. Its a totally lawless world."

Breaking the silence

Both Britain and America deny allegations like this, though they
refuse to comment further. But one former US army intelligence
officer has broken the code of silence.

Colonel Dan Smith told the BBC that while this is feasible, it is
not official policy: "Technically they can scoop all this
information up, sort through it, and find what it is that might
be asked for," he said. "But there is no policy to do this
specifically in response to a particular companies interests."

Legislators on both sides of the Atlantic are beginning to sit up
and take notice. Republican Congressman Bob Barr has persuaded
congress to open hearings into these and other allegations.

In December he is coming to Britain to raise awareness of the
issue. In an interview with the BBC he accused the NSA of
conducting a broad "dragnet" of communications, and "invading the
privacy of American citizens."

He is joined in his concerns by a small number of politicians In
Britain. Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker has tabled a series of
questions about Menwith Hill, but has been met with a wall of

"There's no doubt its being used as a listening centre," he said,
"There's no doubt its being used for US interests, and I'm not
convinced that Britain's interests are being best served by

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