Spies like US
By Diane Alden
Does the word Echelon ring a bell? Whatever happened to the flap regarding a spy system which had an entire international community in an uproar. According to some European journalists and investigators Echelon is alive and well, and currently, its main intent is to look into the private lives of citizens and businesses worldwide.
While it continues to gather info about international bad guys it is also being used by the ethically challenged Clinton administration in order to give an edge to American corporations.
Nonetheless, other analysts maintain that Echelon's parent organization, the National Security Agency is in deep trouble; due to deficiencies in intelligence gathering and bureaucratic incompetence. They insist that Echelon is a non-starter, a paranoid figment of everyone's imagination. That Echelon's intelligence capability through mega-powerful electronic surveillance is a total fiction. The evidence is mounting that they are wrong.
Everyone realizes that any responsible government needs intelligence gathering in order to survive in a hostile world and to save lives. But, it is probable that a lot of NSA surveillance has nothing to do with terrorists and international bad guys.
To find out, I had to go to talk to some Danish journalists, look into the National Security Archives, and read Scottish journalist and physicist Duncan Campbell and New Zealand's security expert Nicky Hager, to sort through it all. The documents on Project Echelon would fill three football stadiums.
Instituted in 1947 under the Truman administration, Echelon was part of a Cold War strategy to keep track of various aspects of international skullduggery. Echelon is described as a global surveillance network that intercepts and processes the world's communications and distributes it to the US primary partners, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
Intelligence analysts Jeffrey Richelson and Michael Evans of the National Security Archives at George Washington University, say that NSA directs and manages U.S. intelligence activities. Plus all collection activity carried out by military intelligence units. This includes the work of the Naval Security Group Command at a place called Sugar Grove, West Virginia.
Newly declassified documents recount that the very controversial program called Echelon does indeed exist. One of its main hubs is the Sugar Grove facility in West Virginia. Other hubs include Menwith Hall in England and six or seven other sites around the world.
In classified documents, which are in the possession of Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, Menwith Hill is referred to as 'the largest station in the service'. Europeans seem most upset and concerned about Echelon and NSA's influence on interception of Internet communications and electronic communications for good reason.
Alain Lallemand of Belgium's LeSoir, reported that expert testimony presented to the European Parliament in December, devoted two pages to the Anglo-American spy network, this included Echelon.
Lallemand reports that another blockbuster follow-up expose' is on the way. It will show that America's NSA, is deeply involved in the surveillance of European companies and individuals. This latest intelligence will be presented to the European Parliament on February 22.
In very technical detail, the report will give names, dates, places and techniques of interception. The French and Italians are particularly upset because the communications involved were those of its diplomats. The report maintains that all means of communication, including computers, Internet, wired and cellular telephones, and even satellite telephones of the Iridium type are covered by Echelon. Additionally, it reports that companies like Microsoft, Lotus, Netscape are alleged to have undermined the encryption of America's software. Lallemand maintains that Americans have equipped nine strategic points of Internet exchanges with detection software.
Currently, the Danes are doing some of the more comprehensive investigation regarding Echelon. Bo Elkjaer and Kenan Seeberg of the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet informed me that Echelon is indeed a real operation and that not everything it is doing is for national security reasons.
The Danes have traveled all over the world including the United States. In the U.S. they spoke to a woman who was involved in the original development of Echelon. Her name is Margaret Newsham and she lives in Nevada. In the 70s and early 80s Mrs. Newsham worked on the project known as Echelon.
Ekstra Bladet has Margaret Newsham's stationing orders from the US Department of Defense. She possessed the high security classification TOP SECRET CRYPTO.
In the interview, Mrs. Newsham says that for ten years, she worked for the US munitions and computer firms Signal Science, Ford Aerospace and Lockheed Martin. They had contracts for the development and upgrading of Echelon satellites and computers, which the companies designed for the intelligence agency NSA.
That NSA cooperates closely with the CIA and NRO (National Reconnaissance Organization). For two years, Newsham shared the responsibility for the day-to-day functioning of Echelon's computer network at Menwith Hill, England.
Her former employer, Lockheed Martin, is the largest supplier of munitions to the US military services and to their intelligence agencies, the NSA and the CIA. During the eighties, Lockheed Martin took over LORAL Space Systems and Ford Aerospace which also deliver monitoring equipment to the espionage agencies.
Margaret Newsham worked for the NSA through her employment at Ford and Lockheed from 1974 to 1984. In 1977 and 1978, Newsham was stationed at the largest listening post in the world at Menwith Hill, England. She received on-the-job training at NSA headquarters at Fort George Meade in Maryland, USA.
Not surprisingly, the NSA cooperates closely with the CIA and NRO (National Reconnaissance Organization). For two years, Newsham shared the responsibility for the day-to-day functioning of Echelon's computer network at Menwith Hill, England.
Mrs. Newsham says that the whole spying network and its various programs are called "The Black World." The code name Echelon is only part of the entire system, and everything seems to indicate that they have switched codes. However, Scottish physicist and journalist Duncan Campbell says it is now called "Magistrand."
Mrs. Newsham told the Danes that: "It is almost impossible to tell the difference between NSA agents and civilians employed by Lockheed Martin, Ford and IBM. The borderlines are very vague. I had one of the highest security classifications which required the approval of the CIA, the NSA, the Navy and the Air Force."
That's why we called them "Black Programs". The government didn't really know what was happening or what the many billions were actually being used for. And I felt very loyal both to the government and to the American Constitution, which was constantly being infringed. The world of espionage was called 'The Black World' because most of the operations were carried out in secrecy, beyond any control.
Mrs. Newsham alleges that Lockheed Martin undercut other companies to get NSA project contracts, after which they illegally transferred money and manpower to meet the contract. "Since they could swindle others for hundreds of millions of dollars, they were capable of anything. That made them very deceitful, and in my eyes, they jeopardized the security of the United States government."
Newsham is not pleased with herself for participating in spying on ordinary people, politicians, interest groups and private companies, which is exactly what she did for 10 years, from 1974 to 1984. Both the satellites and the computer programs were developed at Lockheed's headquarters in Sunnyvale California, and in 1977, she was stationed at the largest listening post in the world at Menwith Hill, England.
"One day at Menwith Hill I realized in earnest how utterly wrong it was." At that time one of the experts she worked with asked if she wanted to listen in on a conversation they were tracking. To her amazement she listened and heard the voice of Senator Strom Thurman being picked up in his Capital Hill office. Shortly after this incident she quit her job. Now extremely ill, she mentions that most of her former co-workers are dead and her life is ruined. She sleeps with a pistol under her pillow and a 120-pound German Shepard as her companion.
The Danish journalists maintain that Denmark's part in the "Black World" of super secret spying takes place at a place called Aflandshage.
They stated that, "Everything indicates that the large parabolic antennas and accompanying buildings are used in the same way as the facilities in the other countries: to intercept communication from commercial satellites that transmit the phone and fax conversations of ordinary people. And to forward the intercepted information."
Investigative journalist Elkjaer said there is more: "NSA runs a networked database called Anchory. What I can see, a lot of SIGINT collected material is piped into the database, and apparently they keep open databases on all countries they listen to. I haven't heard of anyone with access to these databases, but I have located links to the internal intelligence community network. This is where they keep the good stuff: http://doserve.mall.nsa.ic.gov/producer/bin/anchory"
Elkjaer mentioned several other sites that are non-accessible to the general public, including one in the UK which monitors parts of Europe. Using heavy pressure, he was able to get one of Denmark's politicians to confess that the Danes did take part in Echelon. "Denmark participates in a global surveillance system," admitted the Minister for the Defense Hans Hækkerup.
Echelon and NSA seem to be losing their focus. The executive branch and the congress must share responsibility for oversight of various government agencies. The congress, in particular, has the responsibility to make sure the United States spy apparatus is not running amuck at the expense of private citizens and our eroding and precarious constitutional guarantees. It also must make sure that the United States set an example as leader of the free world. Instead, it seems that the US is rapidly turning into a corporate state which will do anything for a buck.
Part II - "Spies Like US: Following the Money Trail" next week
Diane Alden is a research analyst and writer for numerous on line publications. She also writes for the western journal, Range Magazine, and does occasional commentaries for Georgia Radio, Inc. Reach her at Wulfric8@aol.com
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