Many Americans have been astonished in the past week to learn of the government’s extraordinary ability to invade their privacy, but a caller told “The Savage Nation” radio show of his contract work for a global National Security Agency system during the administration of President George H.W. Bush more than 20 years ago that spied on citizens.
“John” in San Francisco told host Michael Savage he worked for one of the largest intelligence contractors in the world on a massive program known as Echelon that intercepted private and commercial communications.
To “get around the Constitution and laws,” he said, “they based the program out of another country, England.”
“They routed it back to the NSA building, which was 14 stories below the ground,” said John.
In his conversation with Savage, John didn’t name the contractor but revealed the company was based in Sunnyvale, Calif., which is the headquarters of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co.
He said Echelon analysts used a computer program that scanned the communications for key words.
“They’re listening to everything,” he said. ” … They know what everybody does.”
John said his company “built satellites over there that can read the data on a dime.”
Savage noted that many people are saying, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, why should you be afraid of this?”
“But as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian author, wrote,” Savage said, “Everyone is guilty of something or has something to conceal. All one has to do is look hard enough to find what it is.”
The European Parliament published a report of its investigation of Echelon in 2001, describing it as “a global system for the interception of private and commercial communications.”
It was originally created to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies during the Cold War in the early 1960s.
Echelon was capable of interception and content inspection of telephone calls, fax, email and other data traffic globally.
Former Lockheed Martin employee Margaret Newsham exposed her work with Echelon in top-secret hearings in Congress in 1988 and to a journalist in 1999. She worked for Lockheed from 1974 to 1984, mostly in Sunnyvale, but was based in 1977 at the largest listening post in the world, RAF base Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, England.
She designed programs for Echelon’s global surveillance network.
“As early as 1979 we could track a specific person and zoom in on his phone conversation while he was communicating,” Newsham said. “Since our satellites could in 1984 film a postage stamp lying on the ground, it is almost impossible to imagine how all-encompassing the system must be today.”
Savage asked John his opinion of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who fled to Hong Kong after releasing classified information about comprehensive snooping by the U.S. government.
“In plain English, I think he’s a hero,” John said.
“People need to know what’s going on.”
In what appeared to be corroboration of some of what Savage’s caller reported, Bloomberg reported its sources confirmed that thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies were exchanging “sensitive information” for “benefits” from the government.
Bloomberg’s four sources said Internet and telecommunications companies work with the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the military.