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Echelon in the News 63

We've been deluged with Echelon stories today, although as far as I can tell, there was no real news about it whatsoever. The committee examining Echelon met today, and that was apparently enough of an excuse for news agencies to report stories based on the draft report that was leaked last week. (The final report isn't due to be presented until September - it doesn't appear that today's committee meeting actually released anything.) News stories from here and there: CNN, BBC, Computerworld... well, I'll skip the non-English ones. And if you're wondering what this "Echelon" thing is, there's a handy guide.
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Echelon in the News

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    The name is not Echelon, it's AOL.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The accusation from the Euoropeans that concerns me just as much is the allegation that the U.S govt. may have used the echelon (or similar) system for the benefit of U.S Businesses by providing tip offs etc. I remember reading somehwere that a few aviation deals in europe went boeing's way at the very last minute, when (i think) Airbus was the front runner. It really then comes down to the haves (in this case, people with access to echelon derived information) and the have-nots (3rd world countries etc). it is a case of 'All your confidential intercontinental ibusiness deals are belong to us.'
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @03:19PM (#190256)
    Here [] is an article about that in French, from the AFP(Agence France Pess), available at

    I encourage others to post translated articles or non english articles about the same storie here...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @03:41PM (#190257)
    Folks, large organizations (nation states, corporations, religions, professional lobbies, Star Trek fandom, etc.) act to promote their own interests.

    Echelon is in effect because the U.S., the U. K. and their partners (Canada, ANZAC, etc) benefit from the intelligence gathering and use it not only for national security purposes (which is reasonable, necessary and defensive in a world of suitcase nukes and bottled anthrax), but also for commercial and industrial espionage (like Echelon target nation France's use of their intelligence agencies to assist French corporations in getting foreign contracts to benefit France).

    What we forget at our peril is that countries such as France who deride and rail against Echelon-like tactics gleefully use the same tactics themselves when they've been able to get away with them.

    I much prefer a world where most of the signal traffic is monitored under a Pax Americana/Brittania, under the Special Relationship (disclosure: I'm Canadian and I know damned well we help spy domestically and internationally), and where the bad guys get caught before they can build an illegal missle defense system... no, wait, I mean before they can take power using undemocratic Supreme Court decisions to overrule the popular vote...Well, I'd still like a world where there's at least the possibility of avoiding a sneak attack. Remember that Eisenhower tried to justify the U2 overflights by saying "No more Pearl Harbours" (and, after seeing the movie's inept love triangle, I certainly agree).

    Echelon, like any powerful tool, can be dangerously misused. Guns are deadly, but I want my local police to be well armed.

    My main concern is the U.S. government and how big money determines who even gets nominated.

    But I'll take even a George W. Bush (a man who makes Reagan look well informed) to a Robert Mugabe or to a Li Peng any day of the week.

    Echelon can and has saved a lot of lives. Let's just make sure it's not more expensive to our liberties than we are prepared to pay.
  • If I send a mail to person X, that is not a broadcast. It is what should be a private communication.

    Now, I agree that there is little or no legal basis for me assuming that privacy will be protected, but that can (and must) be solved by changing the laws. It's not because the lawmakers of 100 or more years ago did not envisage internet when considering whether regular mail should be private, that the founding moral principles behind the laws that they made do not apply to that same internet.


  • PGP and GnuPG can already do this, via the keyserver structure.

    When I recieve a message from someone whose key I don't have, my copy of GnuPG goes to the public keyservers and requests that person's key, downloads it, and adds it to my keyring. If I'm sending anything particularly sensitive, I then call them up or otherwise verify that the key really is theirs.

    The real issue is convincing people that it's worthwhile to generate a key pair, put in their password every time they want to send mail, actually go through the trouble of verifying keys' validity, etc.
  • You mean just as liberal Canadians post about topics and criticize forien leaders that they are outright wrong and uninformed about? We will get back to some of your outright flame worthy yet 2 moderated comments in a minute.

    Really, though, Echelon is there just as customs booths are there at borders, to monitor communications as they travel from nation to nation to make sure that it is not abused in such a way as to harm any of it's affiliates. Just as the customs officials have the right to pratically rip apart my car looking for contraband when I go into Canada or even return to the United States looking for such things. At the very least I have to answer questions about why I am going there and what I am brining in and out. When you are sending a package internationally you need to fill out a customs form detailing the contents, their dollar value, and sign it. It is then placed on the top of your package for all to see. Even still the other nation has the option to open it and examine it's contents if they wish. It should be no different for electronic communications internationally. However, where I draw the line is domestic communications. Those should not be monitored by our government in the same way by an international system, but much the same as other domestic communications are monitored by court ordered wire taps and search warrents. And, having another nation do the monitoring for you should not be a way around that.

    By the way, somewhat unrelated, the popular vote is not what elects a president in the United States, it is the electoral college. It was designed as a comprimise to help give a bit more weight to the people who reside in smaller states so that a few states with large populations cannot elect a president if the vast majority of the states want somebody else. And what was undemocratic was a certain candidate trying to change the rules of the election after the fact, in court, rather than just admit that he lost. And a certain treaty about that makes missle defense "illegal" was signed by a certain Soviet Union that no longer exists.
  • I am against the fact that grocery stores, private organizations, my college are selling my information about everything I do to third parties to solicit me w/shit.

    So do you think I care if someone is reading my messages, my emails, and what I see on the web? FUCK YA I care...

    I understand that there is no "privacy" protection in our laws... But I really think that under no circumstances should the government be allowed to see what I do in my own home on my own time...

  • practically rip apart the car? No. They get to rip apart the car, IF THEY CHOOSE.

    The best part? You have no legal recourse.

    I personally have not had significant problems, but I am very aware of people who have. (Either because they are a minority, or, because they weren't too bright about the situation, or the officer had a bad day).

    While being very late to catch a plane I had a security guard ask to search through my bagage on a domestic flight. I *could* have said no. I wouldn't have traveled anywhere, but I *could* have said no.

    That right doesn't even exist when traveling through customs.

  • Hypothetical question: If you knew that the information gathered would never be used against you per se (unless you were doing something illegal), would you still be opposed to Echelon?


    1. Keeping the government itself within the bounds of the law is necessary if "law" is to be anything other than a cynical excuse for the powerful to do whatever they want. This remains true even if the particular abuses committed by lawless government agents are set aside for the sake of argument.

    At this point, I suppose that someone will raise some variation of the "the Constitution is not a suicide pact" argument. The answer to this argument is simple: if a government agent really believes that he has to do something illegal to prevent a catastrophe, then he should do it and take his chances of going to prison for it (a la G. Gordon Liddy, who at least deserves respect for taking his lumps and not whining about it).

    2. "Doing something illegal" != "Doing something wrong".


  • Oh.. not that long ago.. german government, for one, is sponsoring GnuPG []. Here's [] the press release.

  • I'm surprised to see many responses on the old disgraced theme of only those who have something to hide should be worried.

    At least apply the same question to Echelon itself. If they're only doing good things with this, why is this done in total secret? Surely if they had nothing to hide, they would welcome doing this as publicly as the FBI, just to take an example?
  • by webword ( 82711 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @02:56PM (#190266) Homepage
    Echelon Watch []

    Society > Issues > Human Rights and Liberties > Privacy []

    Definition of the word echelon []
  • by Moonshadow ( 84117 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @03:06PM (#190267)
    The fact of the matter is, there is no such thing as absolute security/privacy on the internet. If an entity is determined enough, they can, and will, gain access to information X. It's only a matter of time. Information cannot be exchanged without the possibility of it being intercepted or accessed by someone other than the intended recipient. The RIAA and MPAA are certainly examples of that: despite their best efforts, if one is determined to illegally obtain a copy of media product Y, they will, and there's very little they can do to prevent it. If information can be legally viewed/accessed, it can be illegally, as well.

    That said, does that make it right for the government to monitor our communications? Sure, they do it in the name of national security, but honestly, how often do you think they're going to use it to prevent a terrorist attack, as opposed to, say, browsing through your email? Echelon is an invasion of privacy, clear and simple. It's just one the general public doesn't know about, and the government can pretty much get away with - for now. It's kinda the equivalent of the postal office opening all your mail, reading it, then repackaging it and sending it to you.

    [sarcasm] Never mind that there was sensitive or personal information in that letter - by God, it's their right to know! And besides they're doing it for our own good! I mean, where would we be if we didn't have the government to protect us from ourselves?[/sarcasm]

  • If you fancy SlashDotting the Men Within the Hill, the domain of their firewall (appropriately called Hadrian)is ns1(dot)menwith(dot)army(dot)mil There is some more info here a/menwith/ Hi-Spooks:) I did think of posting anon, but it probably wouldn't make any difference so I may as well earn some karma for my crimes :)
  • No, the Brits should've put forth a little more effort in suppressing the revolt in their North American colonies...
  • Nope - not joking - pay as you go mobiles are anonymous to the user BTW
  • While the more or less innocent computer users of the world (who can honestly say that they dont do little illegal things online? - your MP3s etc) get persecuted on a regular basis - probably with information gathered by Echelon, the real terrorists continue unscathed.

    Because, you see, real terrorists tend to have brains - rather than use the internet where any transmission could be intercepted and traced, why not use your handy pay-as-you-go mobile phone? - Although it can still be intercepted, you can remain completely anonymous - just remember not to say your name over the air :)

    Interesting thought - I wonder how many 'people's revolutions' have been thwarted by someone forgetting to buy a top-up voucher? :P
  • Hypothetical question: If you knew that the information gathered would never be used against you per se (unless you were doing something illegal), would you still be opposed to Echelon? I mean, what if the government really just used it for tracking terrorist activities, and you could be sure? It seems to me it would be no problem then. And I don't see it being used for terribly bad things? Why does the NSA care what web sites I'm surfing? If the NSA is after me, I have bigger problems than that...

    Yes I do... They have shown that all they need to do is "alter" the meaning of the message by removing content. To the federal government you are guilty until they find someone else more guilty than you..

    You should care about the sites you view.. If the government decides that sites explaining how to (within the constitution) replace the government are ILLEGAL (Sedition) and viewing/running that kind of site is punishible by death (Treason against the United States of American Businesses) THEN you'll worry.

  • But if you do that it will take weeks ! and by then your witty comment will be totaly out of context (this giving them MORE reasons to monitor you - like you trust that all your NORMAL snail mail goes through the USPS, a branch of the federal govt.).
  • No news? Well... not quite. From the ComputerWorld story:
    the EU committee has urged the parliament to encourage future development and greater use of open-source encryption technology by businesses and citizens in Europe
    When's the last time you heard a government encouraging use of open-source encryption?
  • what i found most interesting, in the BBC version, at least, was...

    The report says the UK could fall foul of the European Human Rights Convention, which guarantees privacy to all individuals.


    The European Commission is now expected to study the MEPs' report, to decide whether to take action against the UK over the alleged breach.

    Now, the EHRC is incorporated into UK law under the Human Rights Act 2000. But on the other hand, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act imposes heavy penalties for witholding passwords to encrypted material when asked for it from the authorities.

    And then there's the Official Secrets Act, which is just coming into conflict with the EHRC in the David Shayler case. And so far National Security appears to be stomping all over Human Rights.

    I somehow can't see the UK government doing the decent thing here, not in a million years. And since it looks increasingly like Tony Shiny-Teeth-Nicey-Nicey Blair is about to get the biggest majority since the First World War Coalition, I can't see him giving a stuff about Human Rights. It's hardly been a strong point over the last 4 years.

    Voting Liberal Democrat next Thursday.


  • you amerikans may be comfortable with your government looking up your skirts, but there is no way in hell that your US Government, (note not the government of the world) should be allowed to monitor the communications of citizens of other nations. of course it does in the name of national security and we must all accept that some form of spying will always go on. but it has been shown time and again that the US Govt is all about protecting its corporate interests - industrial espionage is what its all about these days.

    all the more important now that amerika is sliding into the technological stone age. (finland makes the coolest phones, japan and taiwan almost everything else. - the USA is just there to have its technology ripped off by sweat shop workers and sold cheaply out of the backs of trucks in eastern europe.)


  • Companies already collect an insane amount of personal information and profile me to get inside my pocketbook. So the government is recording all of my online correspondence and/or activity? What's new? I don't see people complaining about everyday privacy intrusions, such as Safeway's club card [].
  • It is illegal to say you are going to kill the President, or you would like to kill him, even in passing or joking. It falls under the category of making terrorist threats, and can be a felony. While I have not seen or heard of anybody being prosecuted for that ALONE. I have heard it is grounds for a wiretap, and several other nasty things I don't like thinking of the government doing.

    I must say the area of "terrorist threats" has been taken a bit far. I know of an individual who while drunk said he would like to kill him neighbors, and because of a past history of "careless acts" (DUI) while drinking, was prosecuted for making "terrorist threats" and is now on probabation, and was informed it was one strike, towards California's three strike law.

    While I dislike the person on probation, I think that is a bit extreme.

  • How does the public know who to NOT vote for if a mistake is made with Echelon? How does the public even know if a mistake has been made?

    While it's not a complete solution, the first step is to stop voting for anyone that has "R" or "D" next to their name on a ballot. While pretending to be adversaries they collude to expand their collective power by continuously eroding our freedoms, thus we end up with things like Echelon.

    Until the people wake up and realize that every person inside the Beltway (for starters) is concerned only with maintaining and expanding their own power, there is no hope for the future of this once-great Republic. We need to break the stranglehold that Democrats and Republicans jointly hold on government and its power at almost every level in this country. Only then will we have honest discourse or debate on any issue, much less the hope of some accountability.

    Might I humbly suggest that one start here []?
  • It's been grounds for the FBI to call my uncle's family members to find out exactly how fucked in the head he was.
  • You mean Slashdot?

    Yeah, you're kinda right.
  • Only with no news this time. Original.

    18 /. articles and counting! Maybe they should create a new topic.

  • George Orwell must be spinning in the old grave at the thought of Big Brother [].
  • I seem to recall that there was a bill or something that proposed to make encrypting an email the basis of probable cause, and therefore a legal excuse to obtain a warrant for search / seizure. It was posted in here a few months ago.
  • It has been my experience posting in this forum that British citizens will often support such a system, while Americans almost to a man won't. I attribute this to the relationship that the Brits have with their government; one of consanguineity, a sense that one is of the same type, beliefs, origins, disposition, and outlook. As an American, I am baffled as to why, but they do support video cameras in their streets, surveillance platforms in their Irish towns, and other Big Brother devices.

    The psychology must be one of fear. One must feel that he would be the last group to be attacked by the government he is so loyal to. That combined with an unrealistic fear of criminal elements / foreign terrorists / evil agents allows one to be seduced by the technological fix of spying on the entire planet indiscriminately.

    Now, if you Are one of those in the Inner Circles of Power, well, then you have almost no choice but to embrace better ways of (as you must perceive) keeping your grip on the wolf's ears. Power serves itself in this instance and as such is incapable of saying 'no' to a means to enlarge, insulate, and safeguard itself. I suspect there is no good rationale for the existence of Echelon or Carnivore except for the need to stay on top.

    But this is antithetical to our Constitution, and one would think, post-Magna Carta England, because one of the enlightened priciples espoused by the architects of (at least the US) system of government is a regime founded on the consent of the governed.

    Echelon is certainly Un-American, and probably not very terribly British.

    And the French, who know freedom, sovereignty, and independence as much as anybody, would certainly be the ones leading this charge, I would think, since they accused US of using Echelon to spy on some Brazilian contractor to steal a contract from France for, um, England? Hang on. Here. []

    Interestingly enough, it says that this was built during the Cold War. Also, using only the most dubious of logic, this quote from former CIA director James Woolsey:

    A questionable justification from Woolsey for this activity at the time was that European companies have a "national culture" of bribery and are the "principle offenders from the point of view of paying bribes in major international contracts in the world".

    Hell, you don't see us stopping work on missile defense just because the Soviets crumbled, do you? It's kind of like that.
  • I said it yesterday, and I'll say it again. That's because capitalists are not Nationalistic. They are happy to make money from Americans, Taiwanese, Pakistani children indiscriminately...

    They have no pride in America, even though they are American. If they did, they wouldn't be the cause of all those "Yankee Go Home" placards, and the phrase "Ugly American" would mean something to them, the true ugly americans, who give a bad name to a good country.
  • Echelon isn't like that. There are no warrants, we have no idea who approves an Echelon search, and there is no accountability to the people, because the people don't know which elected officials, if any, have oversight. If a governor appoints a judge who makes boneheaded decisions about warrants, the public can refuse to re-elect the governor. How does the public know who to NOT vote for if a mistake is made with Echelon? How does the public even know if a mistake has been made?

    When you're in your home, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Your home is your your owned personal space. Your to control and keep others out of. If law enforcements wants to tap in and watch/listen, then yes, they need a warrant from a judge.

    The internet is a distributed cooperative network. You do not own it. No one person owns the net. And on the net, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Hence no warrant is needed to look at email or sniff your packets as they pass by 3rd party sites. It's no different than a cop patrolling streets looking for crime. He's in a public area looking for trouble. The internet is the same.

    Neither is e-mail private. People see the substring "mail" and instantly want to assign it all the rights and priveleges afforded to real mail. e-mail is not a gov't protected nor a paid private carrier protected point to point service. E-mail is the equivalent of writing a note on a postcard for a friend across the classroom and handing to the person in front of you saying "psssst. pass it on to "Joe@FrontOfCLass". It moves through many hands on its way any of which can read it as it goes by. Including that FBI agent seated 3 rows in front of you.

    Now if you encrypt that message, you are making an effort to keep it private. You now do have a reasonable expectation of privacy. And IMO, echelon should not be allowed to try to crack encrypted net traffic. But plaintext data? I see nothing wrong there.

  • I mean, it is, isn't it.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @02:57PM (#190289)
    ... "Based at Fort Meade in Maryland, and at Government Communications HQ (GCHQ) at Cheltenham in Britain, the network was set up in 1948 by the U.S., Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia." ...

    Them Brits should never have been allowed to become a US state ...

  • I never said that. Frankly, the entire aircraft procurement industry is so corrupt it's not even funny. HOWEVER, when the agreed-upon rules (laws, in this case) say "thou shalt not directly bribe the decision makers", gettting caught doing exactly that amounts to death by stupidity.

    My objection, frankly, is not to the watchdog monitoring, but to the bribery/etc. in the first place. If France/Germany/Japan/et al want to monitor _only for that kind of violation_, I don't have a problem with it. If a US firm gets caught in those circumstances with their pants down, they deserve to be kicked. OTOH, if you're doing it in the first place, complaining because you've been caught is more than a little disingenuous.

  • Interesting point, when you note that a lot of that technology was developed by Boeing, in the US, and then licensed at gunpoint as part of the MacDac merger.

    Or where you refering to the $30+ billion in direct, cash, development subsidies provide by Germany, France, and Italy to produce the "better" planes? Including:

    • Assumption of virtually all development costs of new/upgraded aircraft.
    • Provision of loans at below-market rates that don't have to be paid back until aircraft are sold.
    • Provision of subsidies to develop otherwise-uneconomic products specifically to displace US-produced content

    Here's a few more examples: []

  • I remember reading somehwere that a few aviation deals in europe went boeing's way at the very last minute, when (i think) Airbus was the front runner.

    You are correct - to a point. The deals weren't in Europe, either. You have forgotten to mention _why_ Airbus was the front-runnerr, and what turned the bidding. In one case, it was demonstrated proof of bribery by Airbus officials to a junior minister in the country buying the airplanes. In another case, it was a secret provision that amounted to corporate bribery. In a third case, it was when Boeing pointed out that they'd been approached for a bribe, and USDOJ produced a deposit to that individual's "secret" account from an Airbus sales executive.

  • Not a joke at all; drug dealers and the like really do use prepay mobile phones to communicate. And why not? It's cheap, it's convenient, and it doesn't attract suspicion.

  • Don't like Echelon/Carnivore/whatever? Then you should routinely encrypt your emails with GPG (or equivalent).

    However, I don't like Echelon, and I don't do this. Why not? Because it's too much hassle, both for the sender and the receiver of the email.

    To fix this problem, I'm designing a system called Herbivore [] which is intended to make the encryption transparent to the user; it does this by adding some extra fields to the email header, which broadcast a user's public key.

    So if I'm using a Herbivore-compliant email client, and the person I send email to is too, then all messages (except the first one sent between us) will be automatically encoded and decoded using GPG.

    (Before you rush out to download Herbivore -- it isn't implemented yet. I'm currently writing a very simple command-line email client that implements Herbivore; then I will add the functionality to one of the common open source email clients (probably kmail as that is what I use)).

  • Has anyone actually taken into consideration that Echelon could fall into the wrong hands, that of hackers or people who would use it for their own evil purposes.
    I've been saying this for years, starting with Clipper. I should be able to encrypt my communications (like, say, discussion that touches on the route my daughter walks home from school) without being supected of illegal activities. The idea that governments will only use this power for good is laughable (except to the families and victims of that power when it's abused, who don't think it's one damn bit funny). We've seen the videotapes, and know that power is abused. We know about the use of the FBI and IRS to intimidate certain people.

    Why do these people think we actually believe This Is For Our Own Good?

  • as the BBC report shows - Europeans MP's are getting worked up about it - now those of us in Europe are quite frankly gobsmacked since these people usually spend their lives in committee debating nothing of importance and contributing nothing of interest to those of us in the nations from whence they were elected.

    For something to make them sit up and take note it must be really bad...

  • Hypothetical question: If you knew that the information gathered would never be used against you per se (unless you were doing something illegal), would you still be opposed to Echelon? I mean, what if the government really just used it for tracking terrorist activities, and you could be sure? It seems to me it would be no problem then. And I don't see it being used for terribly bad things? Why does the NSA care what web sites I'm surfing? If the NSA is after me, I have bigger problems than that...
  • by jezreel ( 261337 )
    If I want to send somebody a private message I'll want to use U.P.S. now.

    blah.... technology %-)
  • It will take a day if you spend enough money.

    I think as long as you don't officially claim to be a spy, criminal or anti-us-whatever nobody will really give a fuck about your mail.
    And persons above don't need to use that certain words anyway (like "Hey partner named *** from ***, I plugged a bomb into *** to blow ***'s ass up")

    Maybe I can take a look at that site in Germany.... I've been around there 2 days ago
  • NSA (and CIA) were founded by the National Security Act of 1947.
  • I would like to correct two mistakes that seem to be common in this discussion: First, there IS public accountability for the Intelligence Community (IC). Oversight of the IC is the primary responsibility of the House Permenant Select Commitee on Intelligence (HPSCI, pronounced "hip-see") and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI, known to some as "Sissy") In addition, executive branch oversight is done by the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB). SSCI and HPSCI both conduct open as well as closed hearings about IC activities and will respond to public requests for information, subject to classification, of course. Second, I'm not aware of any case in which the IC has done economic espionage, as I define it. They certainly do (and should) collect economic data on a variety of countries, for example, estimating their GDP, productivity, etc. They also collect information on foreign weapons systems and use that information to develop new US weapons. But there is a high level of consensus in the IC that they are not interested in collecting information on foreign products and giving that information to US companies. For one thing, how does one choose which companies get the data and which do not? More succinctly, as one CIA officer pointed out, "I don't mind risking my life for my country, but I'm not very interested in risking my life for General Motors." (My memory may be faulty in this quote--it might have been Ford...)
  • Echelon: the program which checks for possible plots and attempts of terrorism, ie: a way to go into ur email.
    Has anyone actually taken into consideration that Echelon could fall into the wrong hands, that of hackers or people who would use it for their own evil purposes. Its bad enough the government has it and can do wrong with it, but think of what someone in the public can do if they have it and is pissed off.
    Echelon, is not just a privacy concern, but a security one as well
  • "The net is too big" is a myth. The net is really not all that big when you think about, it just "feels" very big. Also almost all traffic goes through a very small number of very fat pipes, the net is very poorly decentralized. Its incredibly easy for any organization with a fair amount of money (e.g. Echelon) to monitor 75% of internet traffic, which is more than enough. If a relatively small, "poor" company like deja (now google so not so small anymore) could archive all of usenet from 1995 (minus binaries), monitoring most of the net is a joke. There are already a number of organizations that have saved "snapshots" of the web.

    Above and beyond that, complacency based on "the net is too big" argument display a horrible lack of long-term thinking. Bandwidth and storage are still getting cheaper all the time, and its not an unfeasible notion that within the next 20 years or so, technology advances may make storage possibilities essentially unlimited. Combine that with advances in AI software that will make much of the monitoring completely automated, and advances in optical circuits that will help make the monitoring real-time. Give it 20 to 40 years - this sort of large scale monitoring will be NOTHING. To casually brush off the inherent dangers in allowing systems like echelon with a statement like "the net is too big" is dangerous. These systems should not be allowed to exist in the first place, or should exist only under condition that the system is open to citizens' scrutiny. You're saying "ah who cares lets just allow them to keep running it because it isn't that effective anyway". We shouldn't for a moment let governments think the people don't disapprove, it is wrong ON PRINCIPLE, regardless of whether its technologically feasible. I thought americans had something called the FOIA anyway for this sort of thing?

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday May 29, 2001 @07:18PM (#190304)
    In that I don't believe that people should have expectations of privacy in public places, including the internet. However, I do agree with the orignal post that we need accountability. That is probably one of the most important things in our government. We can hold our officials accountable for what they do and replace them if they don't do as they are told. Things get dangerous when you start to allow the government to do too much they aren't help accountable for, espically when there is monitoring like this. While people shouldn't complain about the government monitoring internet traffic, they should have a right to know what they are looking for. Same kind of thing like with cameras in cities. We have cameras in Tucson for monitoring traffic conditions (and for controling some stoplights that don't have magnetic/pressure sensors). However the government is held accountable for what these cameras watch, and the public can check up to make sure they really are watching traffic like they are supposed to.

    So long as there is a provision made to check up on a system like Eschlon, I would have any problems with it provided, as you said, a warrant was needed to break encryption.

  • Evil purposes?

    Yes, I suppose that Bill Gates must be really pissed that someone beat him to the punch and developed this first!

  • No. The problem is that the government still should define what is terrorism. You can have thousands of examples. The USA never gave a Visa to anyone that belonged to a comunist party, even the democratic ones as the from France and Italy. Martin Luther King was investigated due to anti-american activities. They would investigate anyone that has contrary opinions to the american government.
  • All U.S. Signals Intelligence activity falls under the United States Signals Intelligence Directives (USSIDs). These documents and the applicable Executive Orders very clearly delineate what can and cannot be collected and considerable attention is paid to an individuals reasonable expectation of privacy. This stuff is taken very seriously and careers end very quickly when people try to step over these bounds.

    If anyone is really that interested just do a little research and put in a few FOIA requests if necesarry. Then if you choose to remain paranoid it will at least be well supported paranoia.
  • Of course, no US company would ever *dream* of using bribery and corruption to win a deal. The nice thing about the lack of public accountability and the secrecy surrounding military procurement (even in the west) makes the process about as clear (and clean) as mud.

    Note that I am not referring to Lockeed here, I am referring to current incidents. Unfortunately if a US/British company is the offender, who gets to monitor their behaviour?

  • This is why there is a regulation in Germany requiring proof of identity and address when you register for a prepaid mobile SIM. I hear other EU contries are considering something similar.

    Most stolen handsets are not hotlisted so it is easy for the thief to take over the phone.

  • There are many things that people say that would warrant government action. Because the internet doesn't have physical boundaries, what kind of jurisdiction would government agencies have? I.e. airports have a zero tolerance policy. What if you wrote an e-mail to your friend joking about blowing up an airplane? Would you have wiretaps installed in your house? What about if you *hypothetically* hated the pres and joked about assassinating him? Would the CIA knock on your door tomorrow? How is this supposed to deter terrorists when we have PGP/GPG?? If echelon can catch a terrorist, then that guy is one sad excuse for a loser. What if you were a software/hardway/anything company that was developing a product that had national security issues and a fax was intercepted? Would the gov declare eminent domain before you could even recoup your res/dev costs? It basically comes down to how much weight would an echelon-intercepted message would carry. Is it sufficient evidence to get a judge to sign a warrant? If so, then echelon is a huge violation of your constitutional rights, as it is an unreasonable/illegal search and seizure. If it isn't, then wtf is it gonna be used for? I guess you would have to debate over whether echelon is passive or active surveillance (it seems quite active to me). Anyway, IANAL, but I think that echelon will see time in the supreme court if the good ol US gov ever admits its existence.
  • While the Safeway Club Card is indeed a grave threat to our personal liberty and privacy, at least they give you coupons for your troubles. Perhaps if echelon offered targeted marketing based on the personal information they collect, it would be OK.

    "Amazing. Yesterday I surfed a pr0n site, sent an email to Grandma, and told a telemarketer to screw off. Today I received a coupon for one month free membership at Thank you echelon. Thank you America!"
  • Not just the Brits...

    We Australians seemed to go from Rule Britannia to The Star Spangled Banner without a pause for breath!

  • "Now if you encrypt that message, you are making an effort to keep it private. You now do have a reasonable expectation of privacy. And IMO, echelon should not be allowed to try to crack encrypted net traffic. But plaintext data? I see nothing wrong there."

    I agree with you, but how do we make sure that the government doesn't try to crack encrypted email without a warrant? You state that if you are in your home, you have an expectation of privacy, and so any searches require a warrant from a judge. You also say that if you encrypt an email, you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. The logical corrolary of this is that any attempted crack of the email should require a warrant.

    This brings me right back to the point I made in my original post. There is no oversight ensuring that any attempts to crack encrypted email do receive a warrant. Even if you encrypt, and have an expectation of privacy, there's no guarantee that the person authorizing a crack of the email answers directly to an elected official, as a judge does (sort of).

  • What disturbs me most about Echelon is that there is no public accountability whatsoever, or even an admission to the public that Echelon exists.

    Consider: In the United States, a warrant is needed for a phone wiretap, video surveillance, seaches, etc. These warrants have to be approved by a judge - that's public accountability. The judge is a public official appointed by elected officials - wiretaps and searches are authorized by a person only one step away from elected officials who are directly responsible to the people.

    Echelon isn't like that. There are no warrants, we have no idea who approves an Echelon search, and there is no accountability to the people, because the people don't know which elected officials, if any, have oversight. If a governor appoints a judge who makes boneheaded decisions about warrants, the public can refuse to re-elect the governor. How does the public know who to NOT vote for if a mistake is made with Echelon? How does the public even know if a mistake has been made?

    The worst part of all is that the US government refuses to even admit the dang thing exists, and without such an admission, there's nothing even the ACLU can do. How do you force the government to disclose something that "doesn't exist"?

  • unless you were doing something illegal

    But ...
    ... who decides what is illegal ?
    Normally society sets up moral standards.
    What if you write hot loveletter emails to someone. Maybe something like email sex and those emails ring some alarmbells in security filters of a country/state where such a converstion is illegal ?
    Later you decide to visit that country without knowing, they will treat you as a criminal and arrest you ?

    For me privacy is one human right period.
  • Hypothetical question: You are a terrorist. What would you answer?

    Machinefabriek Verborg, Machinebouw []

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