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As noted above, in 1982 and 1983 the US was alone in voting against a declaration that
education, work, health care, proper nourishment and national development are human
rights. It would appear that even 13 years later, official American attitudes had not
"softened". In 1996, at a United Nations-sponsored World Food Summit, the US took
issue with an affirmation by the summit of the "right of everyone to have access to safe
and nutritious food". The United States insisted that it does not recognize a "right to
food". Washington instead championed free trade as the key to ending the poverty at the
root of hunger, and expressed fears that recognition of a "right to food" could lead to
lawsuits from poor nations seeking aid and special trade provisions.2

Some other items you may have missed about the US at the UN

In 1949, the United States induced UN Secretary-General Trygve Lie to agree to a
written secret agreement with the US State Department whereby, in violation of basic
liberties and of the United Nations Charter, applicants for and incumbents in UN
secretariat positions would be "screened", without their knowledge, by US agents.
Although directed in the first instance against American citi-zens”who, numbering
about 2,000, then constituted approximately half of the UN headquarters personnel”the
influence of this clandestine agreement extended to UN employees of other nationali-ties,
and permeated UN specialized agencies abroad. The agreement was an attempt to
formalize a policy that had already been well established: a State Department policy
aimed at excluding committed internationalists from the international civil service and
aligning that service with partisan US attitudes.3

In 1952, "on the basis of confidential information supplied by the United States
Government", Lie dismissed three American secretariat employees who had invoked the
Fifth Amendment before a Senate subcommittee on internal security. Seven other
American employees, who had done the same, were placed on compulsory leave with

In 1983, the American Deputy UN Ambassador told other UN members that if they
wanted to move UN headquarters out of the United States, the Reagan administration
would do nothing to stop them. Said Charles Lichenstein: "We will put no impediments
in your way. The members of the US mission will be down at the docks waving you
farewell as you sail into the sunset."5

CHAPTER 21 : Eavesdropping on the Planet

Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked
up by it.. .There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at
any given moment.. .You had to live”did live, from habit that became instinct”in the
assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every
movement scrutinized.

George Orwell, 1984

George didn't have it quite right about the darkness. Night-vision technology is
becoming less science-fictionish even as you read this. And he wrote of one country,
Oceania. A large country to be sure, but certainly not the entire world. Could he have
imagined how it would be only sixteen years further into the future?

Can people in the year 2000 imagine a greater invasion of privacy on all of earth, in all of

Like a mammoth vacuum cleaner in the sky, the National Security Agency (NSA) sucks
it all up: fax, home phone, cellular phone, email, telex...satellite transmissions, fiber-optic
communica-tions traffic, microwave links...voice, text, images...if it runs on
electromagnetic energy, NSA is there, with high, high tech. Seven days a week. Twenty-
four hours a day. Perhaps billions of messages sucked up each day. Who knows how
many? No one escapes. Not presidents, prime ministers, the UN Secretary-General, the
pope, the Queen of England, transnational corporation CEOs, friend, foe, your Aunt
Lena...if god has a phone, it's being monitored...maybe your dog isn't being tapped. The
oceans will not protect you. American submarines have been attaching tapping pods to
deep underwater cables for decades.

Under a system codenamed ECHELON”launched in the 1970s to spy on Soviet satellite
communications”the NSA and its (very) junior partners in Britain, Australia, New
Zealand and Canada operate a network of massive, highly automated interception
stations, covering the globe amongst them. In multiple ways, each of the countries
involved is breaking its own laws, those of other countries, and international law”the
absence of court-issued warrants permitting surveillance of named individuals is but one
example. But who is to stop them?

In 1999, the House Intelligence Committee of the US Congress sought internal NSA
documents about its compliance with the law that prohibits it from deliberately
eavesdropping on Americans, either in the United States or overseas, unless the Agency
can establish probable cause to believe that they are agents of a foreign government
committing espionage or other crimes. NSA stonewalled the committee.1

Apart from specifically-targeted individuals and institutions, the ECHELON system
works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and using
computers to identify and extract messages of interest from the mass of unwanted ones.
Every intercepted message”all the embassy cables, the business deals, the sex talk, the
birthday greetings”is searched for keywords, which could be anything the searchers
think might be of interest. Computers can "listen" to telephone calls and recognize when
keywords are spoken. Those calls are extracted and recorded separately, to be listened to
in full by humans.2 The list of specific targets at any given time is undoubtedly wide-
ranging, at one point including the likes of Amnesty International and Christian Aid.3

However, the people running ECHELON are not actually superhuman: they admit they
have serious technical problems; they can't always intercept the Internet as easily as
they'd like; fiber-optic transmissions (which transmit a vast volume of digital data as a
stream of light) pose even greater difficulties; and the data they collect is growing
exponentially, overwhelmingly”sorting and analyzing the random communications in a
meaningful way presents a prodigious challenge.

On the other hand, encryption expert Whitfield Diffie of Sun Microsystems suggests that
these alarms raised by NSA may be a self-interested ruse. "What the agency wants us to
believe”they used to be great, but these days they have trouble reading the newspaper,
the Internet is too complicated for them, there is so much traffic and they can't find what
they want. It may be true, but it is what they have been 'saying' for years. It's convenient
for NSA to have its targets believe it is in trouble. That doesn't mean it isn't in trouble,
but it is a reason to view what spooky inside informants say with skepticism."4 He might
have added that raising such alarms also helps greatly at budget time.

ECHELON is carried out without official acknowledgment of its existence, let alone any
democratic oversight or public or legislative debate as to whether it serves a human
purpose. Which is to say: What gives the United States the right to do this? In Great
Britain, when Members of Parliament have raised questions about the activities of the
NSA and its ever-expanding base in Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire, the government has
consistently refused to supply any information.

The base in England is now the NSA's largest listening post in the world. Sprawling
across 560 acres, it has an operations center and on-site town, including houses, shops, a
chapel, a sports center and its own uninterruptible electricity supply.5

The extensiveness of the ECHELON global network is a product of decades of intense
Cold War activity. Yet with the end of the Cold War, its budget”far from being greatly
reduced”has been increased, and the network has grown in both power and reach; yet
another piece of evidence that the Cold War was not a battle against something called

The European Parliament in recent years has been waking up to this intrusion into the
continent's affairs. The parliament's Civil Liberties Committee commissioned a report,
which appeared in 1998 and recommended a variety of measures for dealing with the
increas-ing power of the technologies of surveillance. It bluntly advised: "The European
Parliament should reject proposals from the United States for making private messages
via the global communications network [Internet] accessible to US intelligence agencies."
The report urged a fundamental review of the involvement of the NSA in Europe,
suggesting that the agency's activities either be scaled down, or become more open and
accountable. It also denounced Britain's role as a double-agent, spying on its own
European partners.6

"It is profoundly shocking and should provoke a general outcry," Jean-Pierre Millet, a
French lawyer specializing in computer crime, told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
"Britain's European partners have a right to be furious but [the British] won't abandon
their pact with the US."7

Such concerns have been privately expressed by governments and members of the
European Parliament since the end of the Cold War, but the US has continued to expand
ECHELON surveillance in Europe, principally because of heightened interest in
commercial espionage”to uncover industrial information that would provide American
corporations with an advantage over foreign rivals.

German security experts have found that ECHELON is engaged in heavy commercial
spying in Europe. Victims have included such German firms as the wind generator
manufacturer Enercon. In 1998, Enercon developed what it thought was a secret
invention, enabling it to generate electricity from wind power at a far cheaper rate than
before. However, when the company tried to market its invention in the United States, it
was confronted by its American rival, Kenetech, which announced that it had already
patented a near-identical development. Kenetech then brought a court order against
Enercon to ban the sale of its equipment in the US. In a rare public disclosure, an NSA
employee, who refused to be named, agreed to appear in silhouette on German television
to reveal how he had stolen Enercon's secrets. He said he used satellite information to tap
the telephone and computer link lines that ran between Enercon's research laboratory and
its production unit some 12 miles away. Detailed plans of the company's invention were
then passed on to Kenetech.8

In 1994, Thomson SA, located in Paris, and Airbus Industrie, based in Blagnac, France,
also lost lucrative contracts, snatched away by American rivals aided by information
covertly collected by the NSA and CIA.9 The same agencies also eavesdropped on
Japanese representatives during negotiations with the United States in 1995 over auto
parts trade.10

German industry complains that it is in a particularly vulnerable position because the
government forbids its security services from conducting similar industrial espionage.
"German politicians still support the rather naive idea that political allies should not spy
on each other's businesses. The Americans and the British do not have such illusions,"
said journalist Udo Ulfkotte, a specialist in European industrial espionage.11

In 1999, Germany demanded that the United States recall three CIA operatives for their
activities in Germany involving economic espionage. The news report stated that the
Germans "have long been suspicious of the eavesdropping capabilities of the enormous
U.S. radar and communications complex at Bad Aibling, near Munich", which is in fact
an NSA intercept station. "The Americans tell us it is used solely to monitor
communications by potential enemies, but how can we be entirely sure that they are not
picking up pieces of information that we think should remain completely secret?" asked a
senior German official.12 Japanese officials most likely have been told a similar story by
Washington about the more than a dozen signals intelligence bases which Japan has
allowed to be located on its territory.13

The European Union and the FBI

Despite all the above expressed misgivings, the Council (or Council of Ministers) of the
European Union has been working closely with the FBI since the early 1990s to develop
a system for intercepting telecommunications in its member countries to serve the "law
enforcement community" (police, immigration, customs, and internal security).
ECHELON, by contrast, is run by and serves the "military-intelligence community."

Known as the EU-FBI telecommunications surveillance system (sometimes referred to as
ENFOPOL), it would carry tapping of the Internet to a new level. Specialized software
would be installed at Internet Service Providers (ISP) which would be remotely ("virtu-
ally") controlled by law enforcement agencies. The effect would be to automate the
interception of messages. How feasible this is technically remains to be seen.

Furthermore, if the ISPs provided "encoding, compression or encryption" to one of their
customers, they would have to provide it en clair (decrypted) to the law enforcement
agencies. ISPs and network operators (e.g., satellite communications networks) would not
be granted new or extended operating licenses at national level unless they complied.

Like much in the EU-FBI agreement, these requirements are inspired by the FBI. It's
something the Bureau couldn't get away with at home. There has been strong resistance
from some of the communication companies in Europe as well, but the master plan
proceeds unfazed, putting forth recommendations about amendments to national laws to
"ensure that surveillance will be possible within the new systems". The plans include
extending the system to countries outside the European Union.

As of the end of 1999, the final draft of the agreement was not yet ready to be submitted
to EU states for ratification; one reason for the delay was that various security services
had been exerting full-court presses to maximize surveillance coverage and minimize
control and accountability.14


In their quest to gain access to more and more private information, the NSA, the FBI and
other components of the US national security establishment have been engaged for years
in a campaign to require American telecommunications manufacturers and carriers to
design their equipment and networks to optimize the authorities' wiretap-ping ability, and
to impose a national civilian cryptography standard designed to allow the government to
decode encrypted communica-tions at will. The power to favor or block approval of a
company's exports has been one of the carrot-and-stick tools employed by the security
establishment. Some industry insiders say they believe that some US machines approved
for export contain NSA "back doors" (also called "trap doors").

The United States has been trying to persuade European Union countries as well to allow
it "back-door" access to encryption pro-grams, claiming that this was to serve the needs
of law-enforcement agencies. However, a report released by the European Parliament in
May 1999 asserts that Washington's plans for controlling encryption software in Europe
have nothing to do with law enforcement and everything to do with US industrial

The NSA has also dispatched FBI agents on break-in missions to snatch code books from
foreign facilities in the United States, and CIA officers to recruit foreign communications
clerks abroad and buy their code secrets, according to veteran intelligence officials.15

And yet more license?

The US Justice Department as well has been pressing Congress to make it easier for law
enforcement authorities to obtain search warrants to secretly enter homes or offices and
disable security on personal computers by ascertaining passwords and installing devices
that override encryption programs, this as a prelude to a wiretap or a further search.16

Meanwhile, federal agencies are running "anonymous remailers", the Internet entities
which allow people to send email without revealing their true email address. Worldwide
users of these particular remailing services have no idea that their partner in privacy
protec-tion is an American government spook of some kind. This might in fact cause
problems for some of the users, whose number probably includes dissidents and human-
rights activists in nations with repres-sive governments, whistle blowers in companies or
government agen-cies, those wishing to report crimes and war atrocities, and gay Web
surfers who anonymously chat in online communities without fear of retribution by
neighbors or employers. Moreover, NSA reportedly concluded agreements several years
ago with Lotus, Microsoft, and Netscape aimed at preventing other anonymous email;
i.e., some of what was beyond NSAs control. These companies have further bent to the
pressure of their government by secretly inserting a "back door" in their software sold
abroad to defeat cryptographic methods. Lotus has admitted to this.17

And the FBI is now enjoying its newest Big-Brother toy: "roving wiretaps", which allows
the tapping of any phone physically near the targeted subject, including those of friends,
neighbors, business associates and strangers; be it pay phone, cellular phone or borrowed
phone; regardless of who's speaking on the phone, as long as the targeted subject might
use it.18

Cowardly new world

It's as if the national security establishment feels that it has an inalienable right to listen
in; as if there had been a constitutional amendment, applicable to the entire world, stating
that "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the government to intercept


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