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And, yes, I DO take it personally: More spying revelations and Echelon revisited
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Saturday, December 24, 2005

More spying revelations and Echelon revisited

this isn't the most uplifting post for a christmas eve...

i commented last week that i believe the most staggering revelations about the bush administration are yet to come... i shudder to think of what they might be...

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

i posted briefly this past week on the echelon program... many liberal bloggers have pegged this program as dating from the clinton administration and claimed that, during clinton's tenure at least, it was operated fully within the law...

my understanding of echelon, as supported by aclu and european parliament research, is that, one, it has been evolving since WWII and that, two, it has operated outside of legal constraints and sans oversight since its inception... let me quickly don my tin-foil hat and say that i am fully inclined to believe the worst and, unfortunately, i don't associate extra-legal surveillance activities by the u.s. government with a specific political party... i strongly recommend that, as responsible citizens, you conduct your own research into an enormous operation that hasn't received nearly the public scrutiny it deserves...

Menwith Hill, UK

here's a snippet from an echelon review by Duncan Campbell, author of the European Parliament's 1999 "Interception Capabilities 2000" report...
The system was established under a secret 1947 "UKUSA Agreement," which brought together the British and American systems, personnel and stations. To this was soon joined the networks of three British commonwealth countries, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Later, other countries including Norway, Denmark, Germany and Turkey signed secret sigint agreements with the United States and became "third parties" participants in the UKUSA network.

Besides integrating their stations, each country appoints senior officials to work as liaison staff at the others' headquarters. The United States operates a Special US Liaison Office (SUSLO) in London and Cheltenham, while a SUKLO official from GCHQ has his own suite of offices inside NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, between Washington and Baltimore.

the sheer scope and secrecy of echelon is hard to comprehend...
The scale and significance of the global surveillance system has been transformed since 1980. The arrival of low cost wideband international communications has created a wired world. But few people are aware that the first global wide area network (WAN) was not the internet, but the international network connecting sigint stations and processing centres. The network is connected over transoceanic cables and space links. Most of the capacity of the American and British military communications satellites, Milstar and Skynet, is devoted to relaying intelligence information. It was not until the mid 1990s that the public internet became larger than the secret internet that connects surveillance stations. Britain's sigint agency GCHQ now openly boasts on its [extern] web site that it helps operate "one of the largest WANs [Wide Area Networks} in the world" and that "all GCHQ systems are linked together on the largest LAN in Europe ... connected to other sites around the world". The same pages also claim that "the immense size and sheer power of GCHQ's supercomputing architecture is difficult to imagine".

here's what the brits have to say about their technology... you can only imagine what their u.s. counterpart would have to say about THEIR capabilities...
It's hard for an outsider to imagine the immense size and sheer power of GCHQ's supercomputing architecture. Our systems range from simple PC networks to the latest supercomputer complexes.

Technologists at GCHQ will encounter the latest state of the art Cray systems, Tandem based storage and high-end Sun workstations. D-RAID (Distributed Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) architectures are used for the storage of very large amounts of data. Indeed, GCHQ has one of the largest long-term bulk near line storage systems in the world.

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