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Spies like US

   A European Commission report warns that the United States has
   developed an extensive network spying on European citizens and we
   should all be worried. Simon Davies reports
   [INLINE] Cooking up a charter for snooping
                              Spies everywhere
   A GLOBAL electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone,
   email and telex communication around the world will be officially
   acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report to be
   delivered this week.
   The report - Assessing the Technologies of Political Control - was
   commissioned last year by the Civil Liberties Committee of the
   European Parliament. It contains details of a network of
   American-controlled intelligence stations on British soil and around
   the world, that "routinely and indiscriminately" monitor countless
   phone, fax and email messages.
   It states: "Within Europe all email telephone and fax communications
   are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security
   Agency transfering all target information from the European mainland
   via the strategic hub of London then by satellite to Fort Meade in
   Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill in the North York moors
   in the UK."
   The report confirms for the first time the existence of the secretive
   ECHELON system.
   Until now, evidence of such astounding technology has been patchy and
   anecdotal. But the report - to be discussed on Thursday by the
   committee of the office of Science and Technology Assessment in
   Luxembourg - confirms that the citizens of Britain and other European
   states are subject to an intensity of surveillance far in excess of
   that imagined by most parliaments. Its findings are certain to excite
   the concern of MEPs.
   "The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system (see 'Cooking up a
   charter for snooping') but unlike many of the electronic spy systems
   developed during the Cold War, ECHELON is designed primarily for
   non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in
   virtually every country.
   "The ECHELON system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large
   quantities of communications and then siphoning out what is valuable
   using artificial intelligence aids like MEMEX to find key words".
   According to the report, ECHELON uses a number of national
   dictionaries containing key words of interest to each country.
   For more than a decade, former agents of US, British, Canadian and New
   Zealand national security agencies have claimed that the monitoring of
   electronic communications has become endemic throughout the world.
   Rumours have circulated that new technologies have been developed
   which have the capability to search most of the world's telex, fax and
   email networks for "key words". Phone calls, they claim, can be
   automatically analysed for key words.
   Former signals intelligence operatives have claimed that spy bases
   controlled by America have the ability to search nearly all data
   communications for key words. They claim that ECHELON automatically
   analyses most email messaging for "precursor" data which assists
   intelligence agencies to determine targets. According to former
   Canadian Security Establishment agent Mike Frost, a voice recognition
   system called Oratory has been used for some years to intercept
   diplomatic calls.
   The driving force behind the report is Glyn Ford, Labour MEP for
   Greater Manchester East. He believes that the report is crucial to the
   future of civil liberties in Europe.
   "In the civil liberties committee we spend a great deal of time
   debating issues such as free movement, immigration and drugs.
   Technology always sits at the centre of these discussions. There are
   times in history when technology helps democratise, and times when it
   helps centralise. This is a time of centralisation. The justice and
   home affairs pillar of Europe has become more powerful without a
   corresponding strengthening of civil liberties."
   The report recommends a variety of measures for dealing with the
   increasing power of the technologies of surveillance being used at
   Menwith Hill and other centres. It bluntly advises: "The European
   Parliament should reject proposals from the United States for making
   private messages via the global communications network (Internet)
   accessible to US intelligence agencies."
   The report also urges a fundamental review of the involvement of the
   American NSA (National Security Agency) in Europe, suggesting that
   their activities be either scaled down, or become more open and
   Such concerns have been privately expressed by governments and MEPs
   since the Cold War, but surveillance has continued to expand. US
   intelligence activity in Britain has enjoyed a steady growth
   throughout the past two decades. The principal motivation for this
   rush of development is the US interest in commercial espionage. In the
   Fifties, during the development of the "special relationship" between
   America and Britain, one US institution was singled out for special
   The NSA, the world's biggest and most powerful signals intelligence
   organisation, received approval to set up a network of spy stations
   throughout Britain. Their role was to provide military, diplomatic and
   economic intelligence by intercepting communications from throughout
   the Northern Hemisphere.
   The NSA is one of the shadowiest of the US intelligence agencies.
   Until a few years ago, it existence was a secret and its charter and
   any mention of its duties are still classified. However, it does have
   a Web site (www.nsa.gov:8080) in which it describes itself as being
   responsible for the signals intelligence and communications security
   activities of the US government.
   One of its bases, Menwith Hill, was to become the biggest spy station
   in the world. Its ears - known as radomes - are capable of listening
   in to vast chunks of the communications spectrum throughout Europe and
   the old Soviet Union.
   In its first decade the base sucked data from cables and microwave
   links running through a nearby Post Office tower, but the
   communications revolutions of the Seventies and Eighties gave the base
   a capability that even its architects could scarcely have been able to
   imagine. With the creation of Intelsat and digital telecommunications,
   Menwith and other stations developed the capability to eavesdrop on an
   extensive scale on fax, telex and voice messages. Then, with the
   development of the Internet, electronic mail and electronic commerce,
   the listening posts were able to increase their monitoring capability
   to eavesdrop on an unprecedented spectrum of personal and business
   This activity has been all but ignored by the UK Parliament. When
   Labour MPs raised questions about the activities of the NSA, the
   Government invoked secrecy rules. It has been the same for 40 years.
   Glyn Ford hopes that his report may be the first step in a long road
   to more openness. "Some democratically elected body should surely have
   a right to know at some level. At the moment that's nowhere".
     See also in this week's issue: Pretty good Phil bounces back (a
   report on the consolidation of the reputation of Phil Zimmermann,
   creator of PGP).
   14 October 1997: Europe's private parts to expand