The ECHELON System

In his article Exposing the Global Surveillance Network in the #59 issue of CovertAction Quarterly (European mirror) Nicky Hagar writes:

satellite tracking "For 40 years, New Zealand's largest intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) the nation's equivalent of the US National Security Agency (NSA) had been helping its Western allies to spy on countries throughout the Pacific region ... The activities they [Hagar's sources] described made it possible to document, from the South Pacific, some alliance-wide systems and projects which have been kept secret elsewhere. Of these, by far the most important is ECHELON. Designed and coordinated by NSA, the ECHELON system is used to intercept ordinary e-mail, fax, telex, and telephone communications carried over the world's telecommunications networks. ... It potentially affects every person communicating between (and sometimes within) countries anywhere in the world."

The ECHELON system was exposed in detail for the first time in 1996 in Nicky Hagar's book Secret Power. In Chapter 3 we read:

"All the text messages (written communications such as telexes, faxes, e-mail) intercepted at the Waihopai station are fed into these computers. This is an enormous mass of material -- literally all the business, government and personal messages that the station catches. The computers automatically search through everything as it arrives at the station.

"This is the work of the Dictionary program. It reads every word and number in every single incoming message and picks out all the ones containing target keywords and numbers. Thousands of simultaneous messages are read in 'real time' as they pour into the station, hour after hour, day after day, as the computer finds intelligence needles in the telecommunications haystack."

And the same is happening at the other satellite tracking stations run by the NSA -- in Australia (Geraldton), England (Morwenstow), the U.S. (Sugar Grove and Yakima) and other places. The spooks have the world covered, and consider themselves free to read anyone's email that they wish to. Should this be allowed to continue?

See also:

The CIA Liberty and Democracy
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