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And, yes, I DO take it personally: What is NSA up to...? It's called Echelon...
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

What is NSA up to...? It's called Echelon...

kevin drum at washington monthly is groping for an answer to his question...
Lots of people have suggested that the NSA program has something to do with Echelon, a massive project that vacuums up communications of all kinds from all over the globe. The problem is that Echelon has been around for a long time and no one has ever complained about it before — so whatever this new program is, it's something more than vanilla Echelon.

echelon isn't and never has been "vanilla," kevin... freakin' far, far from it...

(from Echelon Watch...)
Echelon is perhaps the most powerful intelligence gathering organization in the world. Several credible reports suggest that this global electronic communications surveillance system presents an extreme threat to the privacy of people all over the world. According to these reports, ECHELON attempts to capture staggering volumes of satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic traffic, including communications to and from North America. This vast quantity of voice and data communications are then processed through sophisticated filtering technologies.

This massive surveillance system apparently operates with little oversight. Moreover, the agencies that purportedly run ECHELON have provided few details as to the legal guidelines for the project. Because of this, there is no way of knowing if ECHELON is being used illegally to spy on private citizens.

there have been many attempts to get governments to either confirm or deny echelon's existence with zero success... some materials on echelon have been archived by the aclu... information on an fbi offshoot of echelon, carnivore, was sought by the aclu in 2001...

Previous inquiries by the European Parliament have resulted in reports detailing the existence of a surveillance system known as ECHELON, which is led by the NSA in conjunction with its counterpart agencies in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. According to the reports, ECHELON has communications receiving stations all over the world and attempts to capture all satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic communications worldwide, including communications to and from North America. Computers then sort through conversations, faxes and emails searching for keywords and other triggers. Communications that include triggers chosen by the intelligence agencies are transcribed and forwarded for further investigation.


"It appears that the NSA is engaged in a surveillance system of epic proportions," Steinhardt said. "If these reports are true, ECHELON dwarfs the extensive surveillance of Americans already conducted by the FBI and other domestic law enforcement agencies."

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