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In May 1999, Australia's Spy Chief acknowledged that five countries jointly monitor international calls and faxs, as well as nearly all email (The Age). The project --Echelon-- involves the US (NSA), Australia (DSD), UK, Canada (CSE) and New Zealand.
Echelon automatically runs these communications through a computer dictionary so that messages of interest can be reviewed by analysts. As an example, it might grab messages that include words such as bomb, sigint, Intelsat, terrorist, terrorism, weapons proliferation, North Korea, economic intelligence, marijuana, cocaine, opium, Kojarena, Pakistan, nuclear weapons, Shoal Bay, Waihopai, Sugar Grove, murder.
As you might guess this is meant both to help inform and as noise to raise the difficulty of Intellience agencies use of the Echelon machine.
Spoofing the System
October 21 was Jam Echelon Day. On that day, people all over the world include words in their emails and other communications to "jam up" Echelon. It also generated widespread publicty including major websites such as ZDNet and Wired). You can learn more at the Jam Echelon Day website. Many lists of words were floated. Some of those included:
FBI CIA NSA IRS ATF BATF DOD WACO RUBY RIDGE OKC OKLAHOMA CITY MILITIA GUN HANDGUN MILGOV ASSAULT RIFLE TERRORISM BOMB DRUG HORIUCHI KORESH DAVIDIAN KAHL POSSE COMITATUS RANDY WEAVER VICKIE WEAVER SPECIAL FORCES SPECIAL OPERATIONS GROUP SOG SOF DELTA FORCE CONSTITUTION BILL OF RIGHTS WHITEWATER POM PARK ON METER ARKANSIDE IRAN CONTRAS OLIVER NORTH VINCE FOSTER PROMIS MOSSAD NASA MI5 ONI CID AK47 M16 C4 MALCOLM X REVOLUTION CHEROKEE HILLARY BILL CLINTON GORE GEORGE BUSH WACKENHUT TERRORIST TASK FORCE 160 SPECIAL OPS 12TH GROUP 5TH GROUP SF
Questions and Clues
Questions are now being asked by The European Union's Parliment and the U.S. Congress. A report to the EU Parliment can be found online. And people are spotting little things, like recent NSA patents for technology that would allow easier snooping into phone conversations.
Further Information - Background
Nine MSN's Frequently Asked Questions on Echelon.