E-mail Users Warned Over Echelon Network

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E-mail Users Warned Over Spy Network May 30, 2001 08:09 CDT

Euro-MPs are warning computers users all across Europe that they should encrypt all their e-mails. This is to avoid being spied on by a UK-US eavesdropping network.

According to BBC News, the Euro-MPs claim that the tentacles of the Echelon network stretch so far that the UK's involvement could constitute a breach of human rights. After allegations that Echelon has been used by the US to commit industrial espionage against European firms, the Euro-MPs begun studying Echelon for almost a year.

BBC News reports that Euro-MPs concluded that Echelon -- whose existence is not officially acknowledged -- is reading millions of e-mails and faxes sent every day by ordinary people. The Echelon system, which also eavesdrops on telephone calls, was set up after World War II and was used to glean vital information in the Cold War.

The report claims that ordinary individuals and companies are now being spied on. The report advised that the companies and individuals should routinely encode their e-mails and faxes if they want them to remain private. Sending an unencrypted e-mail, cites BBC News, is like posting a letter without an envelope.

The report claims that the UK may have violated the terms of the European Human Rights Convention. The European Human Rights Convention 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. BBC claims that the Echelon investigation did not prove all the claims made about the spy system.

The network's scope was rather less extensive than had been claimed, and it was limited largely to communications transmitted by satellite rather than cable. The committee also failed to prove that the US had used it to damage European commercial interests, reports BBC News.

But the network certainly exists, and its primary purpose is to intercept private and commercial communications, not military intelligence. The US has denied the system even exists. The UK refuses to give details, except to say that communications interception is a vital tool in the fight against "dangers to society".

According to BBC News, the Echelon operation is based at Fort Meade in Maryland, America, as well as at the UK's spy center, GCHQ in Cheltenham.

It had remained a shadowy system until an ex-director of the American CIA told French newspaper Le Figaro that it was being used to track electronic messages sent by European companies. He insisted that the intelligence services' motivation was to check for corruption and sanctions busting, rather than set about industrial espionage, BBC News reports.

Source: BBC News


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), May 30, 2001


10:57 AEDT Wed 30 May 2001 Europe nervous about Echelon spy system

AFP - Governments and companies have been warned to encrypt electronic messages to protect their privacy from a global satellite spy network involving Australia.

A European parliamentary committee investigating the US-led electronic spying system known as Echelon has urged Europeans to encrypt their e-mails to prevent them being read by the eavesdropping network.

In a draft resolution, the Euro MPs said there "is no more doubt" as to the existence of a global system of intercepting communications that is used by the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The committee calls on all European institutions and government offices to "systematically" encrypt their e-mails.

It said companies also cannot be safe from industrial espionage unless they protect all the means of electronic communications used to transmit sensitive information.

As well, in the process of industrial spying, Echelon was eavesdropping on millions of daily communications between ordinary people.

The existence of the Echelon system has never been officially confirmed.

News reports have said it is operated by the top-secret US National Security Agency, which has never confirmed or denied the existence of Echelon.

It is believed it was set up in 1948 by the US, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and was active throughout the Cold War as a vast electronic eavesdropper, able to interpret information from telephones, faxes or computers - even tracking bank accounts.

Earlier this month, officials of the NSA and CIA refused to meet with an EU committee seeking information on Echelon.

The parliamentary committee said it has no proof that Echelon is used for industrial espionage. Such an eventuality would be "intolerable", it said.

But in an apparent warning to Britain, it said an EU member state would be violating EU rules if it was using such a system to gain a competitive advantage for its companies.

US officials have repeatedly denied allegations that they have a system that conducts industrial espionage against Europe.

The document is to be submitted for a vote by the members of the committee at the end of June before being discussed and voted on by the European parliament, parliamentary sources said.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), May 30, 2001.

Good item to post. But how does one encrypt email. Is there a layperson's tutorial somewhere to guide a person to encrypting their email, and decrypting their friends' email?

(remove "Z"s from email addr)

-- T Barney (ZZtwb@ZZfame.com), June 01, 2001.

PGP is the only encryption that can be assured
of having no backdoors, i.e., up to version 6.5.3.

MIT distribution site for PGP

Here is a plug-in for Pegasus Mail that makes
encrypting seamless.

PGP for Pegasus Mail

You'll have to install Pegasus Mail before the

-- spider (spider0@usa.net), June 01, 2001.

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