Fwd: M-TH: echelon

sipila at SPAMkominf.pp.fi sipila at SPAMkominf.pp.fi
Thu Sep 30 22:21:46 MDT 1999

>>From: "r.i.p" <russ_i_p at hotmail.com>
>>Reply-To: marxism-thaxis at buo319b.econ.utah.edu
>>To: marxism-thaxis at buo319b.econ.utah.edu
>>Subject: M-TH: echelon
>>Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 12:00:02 GMT
>>Anyone know owt about this?

You may already have the text below...

The growth of the Internet has caused a big development in global
communications. Now, the Electronic Mail is taking a great importance,
helping personal contacts.  Thanks to this service, there are many users
sending and receiving much information, sometimes personal data. Obviously,
nobody wants their privacy stolen.

        Electronic Mail is variously referred to as e-mail, email
(sometimes abbreviated EM), electronic messaging (and hence as EMS, for
electronic messaging system), and is classified by some authors as a subset
of Computer mediated communications (or CmC). Electronic mail is part of
suite of technologies made possible by networking computers. It uses
computer text editing and communication tools to provide a high speed
message service. Corresponding through electronic mail has been available
to some academicians for over 25 years, but today it is likely for somebody
with a computer and a modem to have their own mailbox.

        Electronic Mail was designed in American Universities some years
ago, like a simple kind of message delivery. Hence, the data flow is not
protected. The Internet is formed by several thousands of computer
networks, belonging various and different entities. The email messages
travel through the net thanks many diverse mail servers, with the
possibility of leaving copies of those in each one.

        This way, the Internet has become in a medium where flow private
information that could be desirable for too many people, including

        We are moving toward a future when the western nations will be
criss-crossed with high capacity fibre optic data network linking together
all our increasingly ubiquitous personal computers. Electronic mail is
gradually replacing conventional paper mail. Email messages are very ease
to intercept and scan for interesting key words. This can be done
routinely, automatically and undetectable on a grand scale.

        A representative from the United States Department of justice said
that societies had to balance freedom with security, private security with
public security. No surveillance at all would be fine, said Scott Charney,
"if everyone were law abiding, but they are not". The word "they" include
people which Net enthusiasts cynically dub the "Four Horsemen of the
Infocalypse": terrorist, drug dealers, paedophiles and organised crime.

        The surveillance schemes of governments try to find a justification
for their existence thanks to those kinds of offences. The widespread use
of information technology is increasing the power and influence of states:
these uses may be viewed as a weapon against criminals, but history shows
that they will be used ultimately as a tool of authority against the
ordinary citizen. Now, the individual is subject to increased monitoring,
regulation and control. How Simon Davies1 said "History demonstrates that
information in the hands of Authority will inevitably be used for
unintended and often malevolent purposes."

        Government Intelligence agencies are delighted with the potential
of the Internet and Computer mediated communications. The Net and the
electronic message interchanges can contain vast amounts of sensitive
information. Because of the ordered convergence of this information, it
will be easy for the agencies to extract masses of data without the
requirement of a warrant.
        Will be easy? The truth is that is already a reality. There are
many agencies here and overseas that have a special interest in snooping on
the Net.


        Rumours have abounded for several years of a massive system
designed to intercept virtually all email and fax traffic in the world and
subject it to automated analysis, despite laws in many nations (including
this one) barring such activity. The laws were circumvented by a mutual
pact among five nations. It is illegal for the United Kingdom to spy on its
citizens. Likewise the same for the United States. Under the terms of the
UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British
citizens and the two groups trade data. Technically, it may be legal, but
the intent to evade the spirit of the laws protecting the citizens of those
two nations is clear.

The system is called ECHELON2, and had been rumoured to be in development
since 1947, the result of the BRUSA and UKUSA treaties signed by the
governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and
New Zealand.

Designed and co-ordinated by United States National Security Agency (NSA),
the ECHELON system is used to intercept ordinary e-mail, fax, telex, and
telephone communications carried over the world's telecommunications
networks. Unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the
Cold War, ECHELON is designed primarily for non-military targets:
governments, organisations, businesses, and individuals in virtually every
country. It potentially affects every person communicating between (and
sometimes within) countries anywhere in the world.

        ECHELON is not designed to eavesdrop on a particular individual's
e-mail or fax link. Rather, the system works by indiscriminately
intercepting very large quantities of communications and using computers to
identify and extract messages of interest from
the mass of unwanted ones. A chain of secret interception facilities has
been established around the world to tap into all the major components of
the international telecommunications networks. Some monitor communications
satellites, others land-based communications networks, and others radio
communications. ECHELON links together all these facilities, providing the
United States and its allies with the ability to intercept a large
proportion of the communications on the planet.

The computers at each station in the ECHELON network automatically search
through the millions of messages intercepted for ones containing
pre-programmed keywords. Keywords include all the names, localities,
subjects, and so on that might be mentioned. Every word of every message
intercepted at each station gets automatically searched whether or not a
specific telephone number or e-mail address is on the list.

        The five intelligence agencies that constitute the UKUSA agreement
are the National Security Agency (or NSA, from the USA), the Government
Communications Headquarters (GCHQ - United Kingdom), the Government
Communications Security Bureau (GCSB - New Zealand), the Communications
Security Establishment (CSE from Canada), and the Defence Signals
Directorate (DSD in Australia). This alliance, which grew from co-operative
efforts during World War II to intercept radio transmissions, was
formalised into a written agreement in 1948 and aimed primarily against
USSR. The agencies are today the largest intelligence organisations in
their respective countries. With much of the world's business occurring by
fax, e-mail, and phone, spying on these communications receives the bulk of
intelligence resources. For decades before the introduction of the ECHELON
system, the UKUSA allies did intelligence collection operations for each
other, but each agency usually processed and analysed the intercept from
its own stations.

        Those computers in spy stations are known as the Echelon
dictionaries. However, computers that can automatically search through
traffic for keywords have existed since at least the 1970s, but the ECHELON
system was designed by NSA to interconnect all these computers and allow
the stations to function as components of an integrated whole.

        The only public reference to the Dictionary system anywhere in the
world was in relation to one of these facilities, run by the GCHQ in
central London. In 1991, a former British GCHQ official spoke anonymously
to Granada Television's World in Action about the agency's abuses of power.
He told the program about an anonymous red brick building at 8 Palmer
Street where GCHQ secretly intercepts every telex which passes into, out
of, or through London, feeding them into powerful computers with a program
known as "Dictionary."
        The journalist Nick Hager3 discovered thanks to several interviews
with more than 50 people concerned with New Zealand's Signal Intelligence
Agency, that there is a network of spy stations around the globe. Inside
it, "the thousands of simultaneous messages are read in real time as they
pour into each station, hour after hour, day after day, as the computers
find intelligence needles in telecommunications haystacks".

Similarly, British researcher Duncan Campbell4 has described how the US
Menwith Hill station, near Harrogate, in North Yorkshire (Great Britain)
taps directly into the British Telecom microwave network, which has
actually been designed with several major microwave links converging on an
isolated tower connected underground into the station.

Menwith Hill Station was established in 1956 by the US Army Security Agency
(ASA). Inside the closely-guarded 560 acre base are two large operations
blocks and many satellite tracking dishes and domes. Initial operations
focused on monitoring international cable and microwave communications
passing through Britain. In the early 1960s Menwith Hill was one of the
first sites in the world to receive sophisticated early IBM computers, with
which NSA automated the labour-intensive watch-list scrutiny of intercepted
but unenciphered telex messages. Since then, Menwith Hill has sifted the
international messages, telegrams, and telephone calls of citizens,
corporations or governments to select information of political, military or
economic value to the United States.
Every detail of Menwith Hill's operations has been kept an absolute secret.
The official cover story is that the all-civilian base is a Department of
Defence communications station. The British Ministry of Defence describe
Menwith Hill as a "communications relay centre." Like all good cover
stories, this has a strong element of truth to it. Until 1974, Menwith
Hill's Sigint specially was evidently the interception of International
Leased Carrier signals, the communications links run by civil agencies --
the Post, Telegraph and Telephone ministries of eastern and western
European countries. The National Security Agency took over Menwith Hill in
19665. Interception of satellite communications began at Menwith Hill as
early as 1974, when the first of more than eight large satellite
communications dishes were installed.

All telecommunications traffic to and from Europe and passing through
Britain is intercepted at the base, including private telephone calls,
faxes, emails and other communications. Much of the information is
collected, processed and relayed back to the United States automatically. A
great deal of this information comes from spy satellites and the base has a
number of large white golf balls or kevlar "radomes" containing satellite
receiving dishes.

In the early 1980s James Bamford6 uncovered some information about a
world-wide NSA computer system codenamed Platform. There is little doubt
that Platform is the system that links all the major UKUSA station
computers in the ECHELON system. According to an internal working paper7
from Scientific and Technological Options Assessment Programme (STOA) of
the European Parliament on intrusive technology practices by governments,
the Echelon system uses artificial intelligence aids like Memex.8 All
target information from Europe are transferred via the strategic hub of
London, and then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland. Whilst there is
much information gathered about potential terrorist, there is a lot of
economic intelligence, notably intensive monitoring of all the countries
participating in the GATT negotiations.

The report states that:
" [...] espionage is espionage. No proper Authority in the USA would allow
a similar EU spy network to operate from American soil without strict
limitations, if at all. Following full discussion on the implications of
the operations of these networks, the European Parliament is advised to set
up appropriate independent audit and oversight procedures and that any
effort to outlaw encryption by EU citizens should be denied until and
unless such democratic and accountable systems are in place, if at all

        At the heart of the discussion in Europe are two schools of thought
concerning police crime fighting philosophy and the shift away from
reactive to proactive policing. Traditional police work consisted of
apprehending a suspect after a crime has been committed. The police prepare
the evidence and the legal system evaluates the merits. If the evidence
supports the possibility that a crime might have been committed and the
defendant is the one who might be guilty of the crime, a trial takes place
where the defendant has a chance to defend and the State has the
opportunity to prosecute based on the evidence.
Proactive policing is pre-emptive. In other words, the crime is stopped
before it is committed. Or, if the crime is committed, the State can
reconstruct evidence gained before the commission of the crime. Proponents
of pro-active policing believe that society is better served by focusing
its attention and resources on a minority of society to protect the free
society institutions against the threat from the criminal elements of that
society. The opponents of pro-active policing believe that, if left
unregulated, police agencies could be used to suppress civil liberties and
unpopular opinions. Governments may pressure agencies to monitor opposition
groups to gain intelligence on their tactics. Such practices can be
rationalised as protecting the free institutions of the State. As
governments become less popular, they will be tempted to increase their
surveillance to suppress the opposition.


        In Russia, the State Security Service, known as the FSB, the main
successor to the KGB, is planning all-encompassing surveillance of Internet
communications. Andrei Sebrant of GlasNet, one of Russia's leading Internet
Service Providers(ISP) states, "There is no concept of privacy anywhere in
the Russian Constitution, so strictly speaking, there's nothing illegal
about this." The idea is to force each ISP in Russia to install a "black
box" that connects all ISP services to the local FSB office through
fibre-optic cable. This would enable state-sponsored snoopers to collect
and examine all e-mail, as well as all data on web surfers including their
net surfing habits.

        In European Union, instead STOA critiques to Echelon surveillance
system, another kind of state watching project is ready. The EU, in
co-operation with the FBI of the USA, is launching a system of global
surveillance of communications to combat "serious crime" and to protect
"national security," but to do this they are creating a system which can
monitor everyone and everything. The EU will be able to trawl the airwaves
for "subversive" thoughts and "dissident" views and, with its partners,
across the globe. The Council of the European Union and the FBI in
Washington, USA has been co-operating for the past years on a plan to
introduce a global telecommunications tapping system:
"The legally authorised interception of telecommunications is an important
tool for the protection of national interest, in particular national
security and the investigation of serious crime. [...] Modern
telecommunications systems present the risk of not permitting the lawful
interception of telecommunications if they have not been adapted, at the
standardisation and design stage, to allow such interception [..]".

Source: "Interception of communications," report to COREPER, ENFOPOL 40,
10090/93, Confidential, Brussels, 16.11.93. ; Council General Secretariat
to COREPER/COUNCIL, ENFOPOL 166, 12798/95, Limit, 14.12.95.

        The FBI  invited US allies to come to its see, in Quantico. Law
enforcement and security agency representatives met there, calling
themselves the "International Law Enforcement Telecommunications Seminar"
(ILETS). Seen in retrospect, the title "seminar" is a black joke. Acting in
secret and without parliamentary knowledge or government supervision, the
FBI through ILETS has since 1993 steered government and communications
industry policy across the world. In the shadows behind the FBI stood  the
NSA (National Security Agency), whose global surveillance operations could
only benefit if, around the world, users were systematically to be denied
telecommunications privacy in the information age.

        The countries who came to Quantico in 1993 were traditional US
intelligence allies like Canada, the UK and Australia. There was also a
core Euro group interested in developing extended surveillance systems -
Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden (and the UK). Other
representatives came from Norway, Denmark, Spain and even Hong Kong. The
FBI tabled a document called "Law Enforcement Requirements for the
Surveillance of Electronic Communications," written in July 1992. In June
1993, EU ministers meeting in Copenhagen agreed to poll member states on
the issues raised by the FBI and by ILETS. After discussions in Europe
later in 1993, ILETS met in Bonn early in 1994. By now Austria, Belgium,
Finland, Portugal and Spain had joined the 19 member group. The expert
committees drew up "requirements" to intercept the Internet.  During July
1998, ILETS experts met in Rome: The result was  ENFOPOL9  98. A document
which purpose was to "clarify the basic document in a manner agreed by the
law enforcement agencies as expressing their common requirement"

        The most chilling aspect of the ILETS and ENFOPOL story may not
even be the way in which the US-led organisation has worked in the dark for
more than 6 years to built snooping trapdoors into every new
telecommunications system. Their determination to work in the dark, without
industry involvement or legal advice, without parliamentary scrutiny or
public discussion, has blinded them to the idea that not all "law
enforcement" is a public good.

        The Enfopol 98 document was revealed by Telepolis, the European
Online Magazine10 It caused the change of the original purposes,
approximately, borning in April 1999 the document called ENFOPOL 19. This
proposal still concerns "interception of telecommunications in relation to
new technologies": ENFOPOL 19 suggests that some tapping systems could
operate through a "virtual interface." This would mean installing special
software at Internet access points, controlled remotely by government
security agencies.

        It is important to note that, at the moment, ENFOPOL is not a
reality (unlike  ECHELON), but merely a proposal drawn up by a working
group for police  collaboration. But at the same time, ENFOPOL is not an
isolated concept completely  detached from reality. Many of the statements,
the listed requirements and even the  language used resemble legal draft
papers and bills recently made public or already put to work in countries
like Germany and Austria. In both countries, the original bills which had
asked for Internet service providers (ISP's) to give security forces back
door access to customer information had to be watered down after an outcry
in public, mainly organised by lobby groups of ISP's and telecommunication
operators. The similarity of the ENFOPOL proposals and these surveillance
bills in Austria and Germany tell us that key employees within European
police forces are trying to pull the net more closely  together to create a
harmonisation of European surveillance laws.

Police statements often refer to the danger of lagging behind while
organised crime and terrorism are exploiting high-technology and when
national borders are opening up. But their own declared goals are not
served better when at the same time all privacy  rights are taken away from
individuals. Furthermore, the way in which all this is done suggests a
mental regress into "big brother" thinking. Politicians and civil servants
are  making top-down decisions, far away from the public. A democratic
debate has barely taken place so far.


Every new technology in history has always first been introduced and
(ab)used by the established powers, in support of their activities,
particularly war and policing, and as an instrument of controlling public
opinion and suppressing alternative thought and action. At the same time,
every new medium has always and can always also be used as an instrument of
liberation, better communication, alternative thought and action. Print was
the first important example, the computer is the last.

Even though, or rather because the computer nets are and will be used by
the existing controlling powers, they must and will also be used by an
increasing number of people against the powers, and no amount of electronic
surveillance will stop that -apart form the fact that while surveillance is
a reality and no computer net are completely immune against it.

The PGP programme author, Philip Zimmermann, said "If privacy is outlawed,
only outlaws will have privacy. Intelligence agencies have access  to good
cryptographic technology. So do the big arms and drug traffickers. So do
defence contractors, oil companies, and other corporate giants. But
ordinary people  and local and alternative political organisations mostly
have not had access to affordable ways of protect their privacy.[...]
Privacy is a right like any other. You have to exercise it or risk losing
it." Maybe, the only exit will be the use of cryptography, "the electronic
envelope" that turns our electronic postcards into real private letters.


P.O. Box 66
00841 Helsinki - Finland
+358-40-7177941, fax +358-9-7591081
e-mail sipila at kominf.pp.fi


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