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I learned a long time ago to notice changes. Changes indicate
“something” and are in many ways a natural early warning device. We may
not know at the time what that “something” is, but awareness leads to
preparedness. If you sit in a forest, a swamp, or a jungle and actively
“listen,” you can easily identify a change. Background noise of birds
and critters will get less, or increase; you can hear the difference.
Something caused that change. Likewise most people can even smell a
change. It might be the smell of a salt marsh at low tide, or a
campfire or diesel engine. I’ve known guys who could smell the oil on a
gun amongst assorted mountain fragrances. There is also what I believe
to be a very real instinctive warning device designed I guess to spark
the “fight or flee” reaction. The Godan (fifth degree black belt) test
in one martial art requires the testee to kneel with his back to the
teacher. The teacher “projects” a killing intention and swings a sword
at the kneeling student’s head. If the target head isn’t there when the
sword arrives, the student passes and is promoted.
April 20th of last year (1998) I wrote a WorldNetDaily column
entitled “Big Brother Watching” that referred to a program called,
Since then I have seen Echelon stories in a variety of magazines and
The movie, “Enemy of the State,” although fiction, shed light on the
real world realities of Echelon, and the unbridled assault on both the
concept and essence of personal privacy.
Lawmakers in both the United States Congress and British Parliament
are now asking questions I raised last year. Even the San Diego Union
has written about Echelon: “Is the government listening in on your phone
calls? Reading your e-mail for words like ‘plutonium,’ ‘Clinton’ or
An eclectic and strange collection of distaff allies have joined the
“What’s the deal with Echelon” crowd. Congressman Bob Barr, himself a
former CIA analyst, The European Parliament, and a gaggle of computer
mavens calling themselves “hacktivists” are all looking into the what,
where, when, why, and how of Echelon. They are not having joint board
meetings, but they are pursuing similar objectives along fairly parallel
lines. This Thursday the “hacktivists” are planning what may be the
first mass protest using electronic mail as a weapon. It cannot be
confirmed or denied that FBI Director Louis Freeh has bought out the
entire D.C. stock of Imodium.
The target may sound more like something out of “The X-Files” than a
real computer network operated by five countries. But it is real.
Echelon is not officially acknowledged by the U.S. government despite
more than ample documentation of the treaty that sparked it, and the
facilities from Menwith Hill in England to Alexandria, Va. “We don’t
confirm or deny the existence of Echelon,” said a spokeswoman for the
U.S. National Security Agency, although they are the agency believed
tasked with operating the system.
The European Parliament started asking questions about Echelon last
year. The European press has been reporting on it longer than I have.
Yet again, either as a function of malfeasance or complicity, the United
States mainstream has been silent.
Then Congressman Barr actually said the word (“Echelon”) out loud on
the floor of the House for God and everyone to hear.
As I noted last year, Echelon is a complex, interconnected worldwide
network of satellites and computerized interception stations operated by
the governments of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New
According to Christopher Simpson, an American University professor
who has written four books about national security technology, Echelon
scans e-mail for hot-button words like “militia,” “Davidian,”
“terrorism” and “AK-47.” It can recognize individual voices in telephone
calls and track who is calling whom.
I have often received e-mail with a long litany of “key words and
phrases” (Death to the New World Order, Clinton, Butch Reno, Branch
Davidians, TWA 800, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City, Abolish the Federal
Reserve, None Dare Call it Treason, Cocaine, AK-47, Stinger, Vince
Foster, etc.) above a routine note such as “Like your column. Keep it
up.” When I asked, “Why the laundry list?” I was told it was a small
protest intended to overburden the snoopers.
The European Parliament published an official report last year and
concluded Echelon has listening posts all over the world that can
intercept any phone calls, e-mail or faxes transmitted by satellite.
“Echelon is designed for primarily nonmilitary targets: governments,
organizations and businesses in virtually every country,” the report
In May a follow up report said there is evidence that the U.S.
government has used Echelon to pick up the secrets of foreign
corporations and pass them on to American companies. Some of you may
recall talk that when the Cold War allegedly ended, intelligence assets
would shift focus from military to industrial espionage.
Congressman Barr has called for congressional hearings on Echelon.
“By all appearances, what we have is a massive government program that
scoops up unbelievably huge numbers of private communications,
indiscriminately, without any oversight or court involvement,” Barr
said. “There’s a very important, but fine, line between legitimate
foreign intelligence gathering and unconstitutional eavesdropping on
American citizens, and it appears that line has been crossed.”
Concerns that Echelon could and would illegally intercept Americans’
private communications sparked the ACLU to write to congressional
representatives back in April. They said, “The troubling aspect is that
Echelon is this huge system that operates without any oversight or
scrutiny from anybody.” THAT was and is the whole idea.
I’m not going to re-write last year’s column again, you can check out
However, Echelon is the bastard child of the UKUSA Treaty. The primary
purpose of the treaty AND Echelon was to maintain perception, and
- It is illegal (supposedly) for the United States government
to spy on its citizens.
- It is illegal for the British government to spy on its citizens.
- Likewise in Canada and Australia.
So, these cousin countries sit down and “in the interest of
national security” with a wink and a nod agree to the following:
“Here’s the deal, Nigel: Let’s set up an inter-connected information
gathering apparatus. I’ll spy on your citizens to determine if they
mean us any ill, and you spy on my citizens to see if anyone is planning
nastiness to your country. THEN I’ll show you my data, and you show me
your data. You’ll know what’s going on with your blokes, and I’ll know
what’s happening with Joe-six-pack, and it’s all legal … kinda.”
If you sit in the shadows of the international intelligence jungle,
you can hear a change in the background noise, and the background
silence. You can smell “something” different. Right about now there
are Echelon managers and operatives who can feel that uncomfortable
tingle? The same premonition that martial artist feels just before the
sword swings for his head … the same tingle a rat feels the heartbeat
before the lurking cat springs.