ECHELON
But officer, I don't even own a gun.
You can easily be targeted as a gun or drug dealer or worse because of a satirical comment on the phone.
That's the NSA at work.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why is ECHELON a threat?

The UKUSA Agreement makes each of the member nations COMINT agencies surrogates for each of the others when it comes to monitoring their own citizens.  Sharing information sounds good at first, until you realize that they are monitoring much of what you say.  Let's look at what can happen.

Consider this scenario.  An Echelon monitoring station in the UK picks up your private conversation with your accountant.  You mention that, "My son threw a long bomb and won the game on Saturday."  The equipment detects the trigger word "bomb" in your conversation and automatically forwards the recorded conversation to a live person for analysis.  Now obviously, the "bomb" in this case was a football pass and the analyst will understand that.  But, in the process of listening to the conversation, he learn that you were discussing some gray areas in the tax code.  In the spirit of cooperation with the UKUSA Agreement, that information is forwarded to the IRS.  Even if you called your accountant back five minutes later and told him that you did not want to take that chance, it won't matter.  You have been fingered.  The IRS now has your number and you know they won't stop until they get something on you.

A friend might have made a satirical comment to you about how to deal with solicitors saying, "Invite them in while you set there cleaning your Uzi."  You and your friend both know that you don't have an Uzi.  But nothing in your conversation would tell a third party that your friend was being satirical.  So, the monitoring equipment detects the trigger word "Uzi" and the next thing you know, the BATF is breaking down your door.  After learning about ECHELON, I have to wonder how many of those news items about the BATF, FBI or others breaking in on innocent people was really the result of an ECHELON case gone bad.

Think about how many times you might say a trigger word in a phone call, fax, email or chat room.  Just a few of the trigger words are:

bomb, gun(s), drug(s), explosive(s), police, FBI, NSA, BATF, Reno, Ruby Ridge, ammo, shoot, Waco, Oklahoma City, Randy Weaver, Koresh, Liberty, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

And that is just a start.  Those last three really got me, though.  The list of trigger words that was expropriated from the Menwith Hill ECHELON station in North Yorkshire England a few years ago was hundreds of words (phrases) long and those three were near the top of the list.

According to Vice Admiral William Studeman, former Director of the NSA, in 1992 the NSA collected some 2 MILLION private messages/conversations each hour.  All but about 13,000 an hour were discarded. Of the remainder, about 2,000 met forwarding criteria, of which some 20 are selected by analysts.  Do the math.  That means that analysts go over roughly 17.5 MILLION private communications each year.  And that was in 1992.  It is a safe bet that their capabilities have doubled or even quadrupled since then.

The Constitution, in the 4th Amendment, guarantees us protection "against unreasonable searches and seizures" and further requires that "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause."  The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that your electronic communications, whether voice, fax or email are protected under the 4th Amendment.  What this means is that if any government agency wants to monitor your electronic communications, they must first show "probable cause" to a judge that you are breaking a specific law.  The 4th Amendment is there for your protection.

If either of the above scenarios had happened in the United States, it would have been a clear violation of the 4th Amendment to both intercept that conversation and then to pass on the information to the appropriate agency.  In fact, indiscriminate, random monitoring of domestic civilian communications is a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment and would get those responsible in a ton of hot water.

However, by using foreign governments to do their dirty work, our government, through the NSA and the UKUSA Agreement is randomly and indiscriminately monitoring our electronic communications and subverting the 4th Amendment.

It is imperative that you contact your congressman and senators and let them know of your concern about this breach of trust by the NSA.

NEXT - How does ECHELON work?

Copyright 2002 John Gaver - All rights reserved.