ACLU Launches Web Site On Global Surveillance Sys.

ACLU Launches Web Site On Global Surveillance Sys.
Posted by FoM on November 19, 1999 at 16:02:46 PT
For Immediate Release
Source: ACLU
The American Civil Liberties Union today launched a web site designed to shed light on a global electronic surveillance system known by the code name "Echelon" that reportedly allows the United States and other governments to eavesdrop on private citizens. 
"Echelon is perhaps the most powerful intelligence gathering network in the world," said Barry Steinhardt, Associate Director of the ACLU. "But it is still very much a black box, which apparently operates without the oversight of Congress or the courts." The website: encourages public discussion of the potential threat that Echelon poses to civil liberties, and allows visitors to fax free letters to Congress, urging their support for a congressional inquiry into the Echelon project. It also provides a collection of research documents on Echelon. After many years of reports by investigative journalists, the existence of Echelon became an international issue when the European Parliament received two reports detailing its operations and after the Australian government confirmed its participation in the operation. According to those reports, Echelon is led by the U.S. National Security Agency in conjunction with its counterpart agencies in England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Echelon reportedly attempts to capture all satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic communications worldwide, including communications to and from North America. Computers then use sophisticated filtering technology to sort through conversations, faxes and emails searching for keywords or other flags. Communications that include the flags are then forwarded to the intelligence agency that requested them. The report to the European Parliament charged that Echelon had been used in the United Kingdom to spy on charities such as Amnesty International and Christian Aid. "Echelon can no longer be dismissed as an X-Files fantasy," Steinhardt said. "The reports to the European Parliament make it quite clear that Echelon exists and that its operation raises profound civil liberties issues." The NSA has refused to share with Congress and the public the legal guidelines for the project. This refusal prompted passage of a bill, now in the final stages before becoming law, requiring the intelligence agencies to prepare a report on the legal standards they use for monitoring communications. Within the next few months, the U.S. House Government Reform and Oversight Committee will hold hearings on Echelon. "It appears that the U.S. government is once again spying on Americans' private communications," said Gregory T. Nojeim, a legislative counsel in the ACLU's Washington National Office. "Congress must determine if Echelon is as sweeping and intrusive as has been reported, and most importantly, it must ensure that Americans' conversations are not intercepted without a court order." The ACLU created and administers the site in conjunction with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Omega Foundation of Great Britain, which prepared the first report to the European Parliament. For Immediate Release:Tuesday, November 16, 1999 mailto:media dcaclu.orgCopyright 1999, The American Civil Liberties UnionNewshawk: CryoteACLU's Current Press Releases:
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on November 19, 1999 at 18:42:30 PT
COINTELPRO, part 2...
Back in the early 60's the FBI and other Federal law enforcement agencies engaged in what they called Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO. This system of domestic spying was aimed at not only Communists, but average American citizens, who whether through political affiliation or just speaking their minds, were considered 'dangerous'. As to who made the determination as to who was considered 'dangerous', well, none other than the intelligence agencies and that paragon of virtue, J. Edgar Hoover. One of the chief operatives of that group was convicted Watergate felon and all around Constitution trasher G. Gordon Liddy, he of the 'Plumbers' fame. A real rogue's gallery if ever there was one.COINTELPRO was supposed to be disbanded in the early 70's after the Church Committee publicly disclosed what it had been doing in the name of 'national security'... such as sending death threats to Dr. Martin Luther King.But nothing so useful to the Powers-That-Be ever gets trashed; it just gets revamped. That ECHELON exists I have no doubt. But my question is, why is it spying on harmless civilians? Are they expecting something coming down the pike that will require knowing where everyone who ever said Clinton is a bum and ought to be kicked out of office lives?In the Fifties, they used to joke half-seriously about the fear of 'Reds under the beds', but it seems that our own governments have demonstrated quite clearly they don't trust their own citizenry. The War on (Some) Drugs has been used to excuse massive technology-fueled infringements on the right of average citizens. Thermal-imagery scanners, 'drop and trace' phone taps, lasers bounced off of windows to pick up conversations, etc. And now we learn of ECHELON. Or, as the old joke goes, "I'm from the government, I'm here to help you." Yeah, right.Time to poke Big Brother in the eye and teach him a lesson...while there's still time.
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