Spies are US

 作者:敖枋     |      日期:2019-03-08 05:19:00
By Kurt Kleiner AS YOU read this, a US intelligence agency is probably analysing your last phone call, fax, telex or e-mail. It may sound paranoid, but any doubts about the existence of a shadowy project called Echelon, designed for this very purpose, are rapidly disappearing. And as the extent of its espionage emerges, Western governments are demanding to know the reasons for its activity and to whom it is ultimately accountable. If recently proposed legislation is passed, American spy chiefs and the Attorney General will have to explain themselves and the global electronic surveillance programme to Congress. But the secretive National Security Agency that founded Echelon isn’t making the quest any easier. So far, the NSA has refused to say what it does, much less explain the ethical rules it is governed by or what it does with the information it gathers. In May, the NSA stonewalled Congress. The House of Representatives’ Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence hit back by passing an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act for 2000. If the amendment is backed by the Senate, then—bar a presidential veto—the NSA will have 60 days to reveal how it safeguards the privacy of US citizens. So the pressure is building for the NSA to come clean—and not just in the US. The European Parliament is threatening to put pressure on Britain to stop feeding information on other European Union countries to the US. “There’s growing anxiety in Europe that American hegemony is unchecked and that there are few controls on what the US can do in the world. It’s one manifestation of the anxiety that is increasingly felt in Europe about America as the only remaining superpower,” says John Pike, an analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, based in Washington DC. Discussion about the NSA often sounds melodramatic, or even paranoid, with its talk of furtive, high-tech methods. That has been part of the problem, say critics. “To many people’s minds this was all X-Files stuff. This was perceived as the paranoid fantasies of investigative reporters and political dissenters,” says Barry Steinhardt, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in New York who has been pressing for greater transparency at the NSA. For years after its creation in 1952, the NSA didn’t even admit its own existence. But greater government openness and the work of investigative reporters have sketched in the broad outlines of the agency and its operations. The agency’s headquarters is at Fort Meade, near Washington DC. It houses about 20 000 employees and 20 supercomputers. This is where most of the data from a worldwide network of eavesdropping antennas and satellites is eventually analysed, according to Pike. The agency has other facilities all over the world, many of them run in cooperation with Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada under a 1947 agreement called UKUSA, which calls for governments to work together to collect information. The NSA says its official mission is SIGINT—signals intelligence. Specifically, it provides the “unified organization and control of all foreign signals collection and processing activities in the United States”, according to the agency’s website. But what does this mean? In a report for the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament, the EU’s Scientific and Technical Options Assessment (STOA) office has come up with its own interpretation. According to the 1997 document, updated in 1999, “all” electronic communications in Europe are routinely intercepted by a worldwide network of spy satellites and eavesdropping antennas. One of the main collection points is in Britain, at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire. Others are in Bad Aibling in Germany, Misawa Air Base in Misawa, Japan, and in Geraldton in Australia. “It’s simply a giant vacuum cleaner sucking up communications,” Steinhardt says. According to the report, sophisticated computer software scans all the messages for key words and phrases contained in a special list contributed by various intelligence agencies, in a bid to spot correspondence by, say, drug barons or terrorists. Communications are also tagged according to the phone number placing or receiving the call, and even according to voice prints of particular people governments are interested in listening to. Glyn Ford, a Labour MEP, was on the Committee on Civil Liberties and Internal Affairs that originally asked for the report. He says he’s not necessarily against electronic intelligence gathering. “I don’t think my electors have any problem with electronic eavesdropping. In fact, my constituents would be horrified if electronic eavesdropping were not being used to find the perpetrators of the Omagh bombing, for instance. But I don’t think they would be very keen on the kind of blanket listening that seems to be going on.” Some members of the European Parliament are particularly concerned that the surveillance system is being used to gather economic intelligence and pass it on to companies in the US. STOA encountered allegations that the US used its electronic intelligence to help the American defence manufacturer Raytheon beat the French company Thompson-CSF to a $1.4 billion deal to provide radar to Brazil. Another rumour is that Airbus lost a $1 billion deal to Boeing and McDonnell Douglas because of American spying. So could one function of Echelon be to collect economic intelligence and use it to give American companies an advantage over foreign rivals? Patrick Poole, an investigator for the civil rights group Free Congress Foundation in Washington DC, says in a report on Echelon that an economic intelligence effort began when the end of the Cold War forced the NSA and other US intelligence agencies to look for a new rationale for their existence. “The solution was to redefine the notion of national security to include economic, commercial and corporate concerns,” he writes in a report, Echelon: America’s Secret Global Surveillance Network (http://fly.hiwaay.net/~pspoole/ echelon.html). Pike, on the other hand, believes organised economic espionage is unlikely to be happening. The NSA might monitor commercial communications when trying to track down the bank accounts of terrorist organisations, for instance. But he doesn’t think the ties between government and business in the US are strong enough for systematic espionage to exist. However, some would question this assertion, particularly with regard to links between the defence industry and government. In the US, the revelations in Europe have prompted interest in what the NSA is up to at home. Foreign intelligence agencies, such as the CIA and the NSA, are prohibited from spying on American residents—that’s a job reserved for the FBI. But the NSA almost certainly sucks up a lot of American communications along with everything else, and there have been allegations that it sometimes sorts through traffic for domestic political reasons. This was what prompted the House of Representatives’ committee on intelligence to tackle the NSA in May. To the incredulity of some Congress members and observers, NSA officials said the information was protected by attorney client privilege between the agency and its lawyers. Intelligence committee chairman Peter Goss described the NSA’s argument as “dubious”. According to Steinhardt: “It was an extraordinary claim, given what is being asked for are the rules about when interceptions can be made of US citizens.” Meanwhile, after last month’s elections in Europe, Ford is waiting to see if the new parliament will continue to press for answers on the NSA’s activities. He thinks it should, especially as the US continues to push for limits on the use of encryption techniques that could defeat its eavesdropping efforts. “If we’re going to leave the keys under the doormat for the US, we want a guarantee that they’re not going to steal the family silver,