09 January 2006

Jason Leopold: The NSA Spy Engine - Echelon

scoop.co.nz

A clandestine National Security Agency spy program code-named Echelon was likely responsible for tapping into the emails, telephone calls and facsimiles of thousands of average American citizens over the past four years in its effort to identify people suspected of communicating with al-Qaeda terrorists, according to half-a-dozen current and former intelligence officials from the NSA and FBI.

The existence of the program has been known for some time. Echelon was developed in the 1970s primarily as an American-British intelligence sharing system to monitor foreigners - specifically, during the Cold War, to catch Soviet spies. But sources said the spyware, operated by satellite, is the means by which the NSA eavesdropped on Americans when President Bush secretly authorized the agency to do so in 2002.

Another top-secret program code-named Tempest, also operated by satellite, is capable of reading computer monitors, cash registers and automatic teller machines from as far away as a half-mile and is being used to keep a close eye on an untold number of American citizens, the sources said, pointing to a little known declassified document that sheds light on the program.


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