Document:Echelon News April 2000
Espionage's Holy Alliance
by Jacques Isnard
This is the story of a spy that wanted to come in, not from the cold, but from the sky; not from the East, but from the West — omnipresent, mysterious, and disturbing; a "Big Brother," as George Orwell dubbed it in his novel, "1984," a totalitarian and dehumanized brain that monitors the world. But this is a "Big Brother" that is also a "Big Eye" and a "Big Ear." In other words an English-speaking spy that has spread a dense network of listening stations throughout the planet and that lies in wait for everything and anything, ready to record the slightest indiscretion, and which conveys whatever it has managed to collect to whoever is entitled to it. Many exploits are attributed to it — perhaps more than it is actually capable of, but this is indeed a powerful "Big Brother."
It is called the "Echelon" network. Its detractors — that is, those who do not have access to it — have christened it "The Club," whether derisively or enviously. This, on account of the fact that it is reserved for five of the world's states, which speak English and which, on the basis of this shared language that draws them together and makes them joint conspirators, have forged special ties — the United States, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. Echelon is their top-secret war machine, though it is likely that other countries, each in its own way and to a lesser extent than the founding countries, have joined it along the way: those most frequently cited include Germany, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and Norway.
Why has this worldwide monitoring system prompted such high feeling in Brussels, to the extent that the EU Council, Commission, and Parliament plan to discuss it 30 March, following the publication of a report at the end of February? It is for the following simple reason, which overshadows others: allies are spying on other allies, since three members of this English-speaking "club" belong to NATO (the United States, Britain, and Canada) and one of them, the UK, is also an EU member. This has serious implications for loyalty among allies.
It all began in 1947. The Soviet Union had just foregone benefiting from the Marshall Plan, named for the US General who was President Roosevelt's chief aide during World War II and who, on becoming Secretary of State in 1947, proposed to Europe, including the Eastern countries, that the United States help in its reconstruction and financial recovery. That which subsequently came to be called the "Cold War" between East and West began. The Soviet Union, which believed itself to be under siege, set about surrounding itself with a protective shell made up of central European countries.
The following year a secret pact, the details of which are still secret, linked the United States to Britain, which had already been partners since 1943 in an intelligence network known as "Brusa Comint." This pact was named "Ukusa," using the two countries' acronyms. The agencies — the National Security Agency (NSA,) at Fort Meade (United States,) whose existence was not acknowledged by Washington until 10 years later, and the Government Communications Headquarters at Cheltenham (Britain) — were asked to preserve the two country's interests throughout the world by intercepting communications abroad. The NSA and GCHQ were already high-performing resources in the electronic espionage field. Their priority task was to monitor communications between the staffs — always too talkative — of the Communist bloc's armed forces, from which their combat capabilities could be deduced.
In the seventies, France, though an exchange mechanism among the Western intelligence services known as "Totem," was associated with NSA monitoring, particularly with regard to the development of software for the analysis of intelligence collected and the communication of various intelligence concerning military arrangements in Eastern Europe.
But Ukusa grew, and indeed became bloated. The original pact attracted other candidates who also wanted to benefit from the same intelligence. The Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) in Melbourne, Australia; the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in Ottawa, Canada; and the Government Communications Security Bureau in New Zealand all joined. These are all military intelligence services, usually very discreet, and also individualistic, but which, for the sake of this brotherhood, learned to cooperate on their governments' instructions, establishing a holy espionage alliance.
While the initiated watched Ukusa spread, it also underwent a transformation. It remained one of the world's best kept secrets. It was not until 1972 that the US journal, Ramparts, which is the mouthpiece for critics of the US military-industrial complex, published disclosures by a former NSA employee, without, however, being able to mention the name, "Echelon." But Echelon did exist, hidden behind Ukusa.
This because, in the meantime, the Ukusa of the Cold War gave rise to what some people, probably indulgently, called a "caricature" of "Big Brother." The years 1952, 1957, 1984, 1986, and 1988 were the significant stages in the development of this espionage machine, which was established through Echelon and which is capable — despite the difficulty in recruiting sufficiently well qualified translators — of intercepting and then analyzing the messages in circulation around the planet in a hundred different languages.
That was when Echelon's destiny was accomplished. The "big ears" no longer confined themselves to monitoring potential adversaries. Everything was a potential target — the telephone calls, including mobile telephone calls, telexes, faxes, Internet communications, and e-mails of administrations, enterprises, and private individuals, most of which are transmitted via the Intelsat and Immarsat satellites. The five states of the holy alliance shared the task: the United States' NSA took care of North and South America, Britain's GCHQ took care of Europe (including Russia) and Africa, Australia's DSD took care of the Asian-Pacific region with New Zealand, and Canada's CSE covered Europe and the Americas.
Echelon intercepts, diverts, and decrypts even the most sensitive civilian and military communications, when it succeeds in cracking their high-security codes, finding key-words that make it possible to identify the information that is deemed most interesting. It then conveys this information to the intelligence services, for them to interpret for the benefit of the target governments that use it.
For a long time the system was considered safe, as it freely read other people's communications — with complete impunity. Then problems occurred. Incidents and breakdowns were reported, often by former NSA or GCHQ agents, who had originally signed contracts in which they pledged not to discuss their former activities, but who were unable to refrain from speaking out, despite the threat of legal proceedings. In the case of the NSA, for instance, according to General Michael Hayden, its present Director, 7,000 of the 38,000 employees have left their jobs in recent years. How can they all be forced to remain silent?
The NSA has tried to dilute the poison. It failed to take account of the human rights and civil liberties defense organizations, guaranteed by the US Constitution, which have revealed Echelon's misdeeds.
In fact the interceptions suffered by governments are considered to relate to the traps laid, not without hypocrisy, by all states, both allied and others. This is virtually the rule in the case of espionage, which indeed has no rules, whether written or tacit. It is a case of everyone for himself. This is the law that applies in this sphere. Under the circumstances, France was in no position to complain, with its own "big ears" concealed behind the anonymity of the former Radio-Electronic Monitoring Group (GCR,) now the Technical Directorate of the General Directorate of External Security (DGSE,) which has its own monitoring resources.
The champions of Echelon in the United States are convinced that the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuna in 1962, the capture of the terrorists on board the liner, the "Achille Lauro," in 1995 [as published], and Libya's implication in the attack on a Berlin disco in 1996 [as published], justify the work done by listening stations around the world. There have been setbacks, such as the North Koreans' seizure in 1968 of the "Pueblo," the US spy ship sailing off their coast.
But the sharpest controversy arises when the clandestine monitoring of communications is carried out in the case of firms involved in negotiations with a client, rivals of US concerns to which Echelon tries to grant an advantage, or when surveillance extends, for reasons admissible or not, to communications between private individuals, whose private lives thus come under scrutiny.
A number of investigators, and especially the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation in Washington, have devoted themselves to the painstaking task of tracking and revealing the legal infringements and compromises committed by Echelon, which both during and after the Cold War continued to work according to the tradition of all secret services throughout the world — by denying everything. The only reason these operations come to light is because they suddenly reach the ears of a Congress determined to clean things up.
This is the case with the "Shamrock" project, which made it possible to intercept telegrams sent or received by Western Union, RCA, or ITT in the fifties and sixties. The same goes for the "Minaret" project, when the United States monitored, between 1967 and 1973, 6,000 foreigners and 1,700 US organizations and individuals, including Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Jane Fonda, and Joan Baez. And the same goes for the "Chaos" project, under the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon presidencies, which monitored some 7,000 students and activists representing no fewer than a thousand organizations hostile to the Vietnam War. The Free Congress Research and Education Foundation reports that Echelon was not inactive in Canada and Britain. In Ottawa it tried to find out whether Margaret Trudeau, wife of the then Prime Minister, used marijuana. In London, when Margaret Thatcher headed the Conservative cabinet, monitoring was carried out on ministers, taxpayers such as newspaper boss Robert Maxwell, and media such as The Observer, that had criticized the activities of the Prime Minister's son Mark, at the time of the arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
In the report examined at the end of February, the European Parliament identified the NSA as having provided Echelon's "big ears" in 1994, thus enabling the US Raytheon company to rob two French firms, Thomson-CSF and Alcatel, of a Brazilian radar contract.
But other firms too have suffered as a result of this practical espionage across the Atlantic, through the creation at the Trade Secretary's office of a National Economic Council, an outright council of war to coordinate and centralize the intelligence services' activities for the benefit of major US companies. This happened to Japan's NEC, whose messages the NSA intercepted during the sale of a satellite to Indonesia, and to Japanese car manufacturers during their talks in Geneva with Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. Last, Canada's CSE monitored the South Koreans, to whom Ottawa wanted to sell Candu reactors in 1991.
Amid this mass of information of all kinds, it is here that we come to the thing that most worries Washington's and London's European partners. That is, the blow dealt by Echelon, and specifically by the English-speaking countries most involved in this system, to inter-allied solidarity. Nobody questions the pressing need to use every available means to combat the organized the crime, terrorism, drugs trafficking, money laundering, and proliferation of mass destruction weapons engaged in by unscrupulous states or wealthy mafia groups. But Echelon extends well beyond that.
In the European Parliament, the Fifteen feel uncomfortable about this intelligence hierarchy, and for the present the only response they have managed to find is to ask — without any hope of success — to join "The Club." All the more so inasmuch as Echelon is spreading and expanding. Those who have retired, or resigned, from its service are under increasing pressure to make their expertise available to private, very private, interests. To cite just a few examples, political movements, companies, business circles, banks, and consultancy firms regard these former agents as the goldmine that will provide them with the "moles" of the future.
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US national newspaper, March 31, 2000 Lack of Evidence Hobbles Calls For Probe of U.S.-U.K. Spy Setup By Philip Shishkin
Brussels — Some groups in the European Parliament are clamoring to launch a formal inquiry in April into allegations that the U.S. and United Kingdom are spying on European companies through the Echelon signals intelligence system.
But amid all the political rhetoric, one fact stands out — lack of evidence.
Although encouraged by the European commission, no single company in the European Union has stepped forward with complaints about being snooped on by the Echelon. "No company has come to speak to us about any injury," Jonathan Faull, a senior commission spokesman, said in response to a barrage of questions about the commission's alleged inaction in the face of commercial espionage.
Earlier this year the European parliament presented a report — written by a British journalist — that accuses the U.S., the U.K. and a few other English-speaking countries of misusing their electronic intelligence system to spy on European companies. The U.S. and the U.K. have denied involvement and yesterday sent formal letters to the commission once again saying no such commercial spying has occurred.
But espionage allegations grew even louder recently when James Woolsey, a former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, said commercial espionage did take place and that it was justified by the fact that European companies are more corrupt than those in the U.S. Responding to these allegations, Mr. Faull, the commission's spokeman, said that they are an "outrageous slur."
It is the National Security Agency, not the CIA, that conducts signals intelligence on behalf of the U.S. government. The NSA has said it doesn't do commercial spying.
Agence France-Press EU official urges transparency over New Zealand spy station
WELLINGTON, March 27 (AFP) - European Union Vice President Gerard Onesta Monday called for greater openess around New Zealand's Waihopai satellite station after he was denied access inside.
Onesta visited the station on the South Island last week, as part of a European Parliament delegation.
The French Green MP said he had no idea such a spy base operated in New Zealand and it was important for him to visit it.
But despite an approach to the government communications security bureau which runs Waihopai, he was allowed only as far as the inner gate. The New Zealand government has denied recent allegations that the spy base is linked to the Echelon system which intercepts phone, fax and email communications.
But Onesta said such secrecy surrounding the station needed to be challenged, adding the Echelon system needed to be much more transparent.
"In my idea when a door is closed there is something wrong on the other side," he said.
Onesta said the Greens in the European Parliament were trying to force an investigative committee to be set up to look into Echelon, which he alleged was "big brother. It's George Orwell put into reality."
To do this they needed the support of 160 of the 626 MPs and when he left for New Zealand the party already had 100.
The committee would have legal powers to investigate the Echelon system and its use in Britain.