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French to Sue US and Britain Over Network of Spies

from Adam Sage in Paris
February 10 2000 www.the-times.co.uk/

The British and US Governments are to be sued in France after claims that they have spied on French companies, diplomats and Cabinet ministers. Lawyers are planning a class action after confirmation last week that a global anglophone spy network exists.

Codenamed P-415 Echelon, the world's most powerful electronic spy system was revealed in declassified US National Security Agency documents published on the Internet, and is capable of intercepting telephone conversations, faxes and e-mails.

The system was established in the 1980s by the UKUSA alliance, which unites the British, American, Australian, New Zealand and Canadian secret services. In Europe, its listening devices are at Menwith Hill defence base in Yorkshire. French MPs claim to have evidence that the European Airbus consortium lost a Fr35 billion (£3.5 billion) contract in 1995 after its offer was overheard and passed to Boeing. Georges Sarre, a left-wing MP, said: "The participation of the United Kingdom in spying on its European partners for and with the US raises serious and legitimate concerns in that it creates a particularly acute conflict of interest within the European Union."

The European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee will study a report on the Echelon network on February 23. The debate is certain to fuel criticism of Britain's role.

Until this month, the network was an official secret recognised by none of the members of the UKUSA alliance. But the documents published by the George Washington University prove its existence and its capacity to intercept civilian satellite communications.

Jean-Pierre Millet, a Parisian lawyer, said that Echelon tracked every mobile and satellite call, but only decoded those involving a key figure. "You can bet that every time a French government minister makes a mobile phone call, it is recorded," he said.

M Millet said that Echelon's system leaves it open to legal challenge under French privacy laws. "The simple fact that an attempt has been made to intercept a communication is against the law in France, however the information is exploited." Yesterday he said that he would bring an action on behalf of French civil liberty groups.

Covert Action Quarterly

"To counteract reductions in military contracts which began in the 1980s, computer and electronics companies are expanding into new markets at home and abroad with equipment originally developed for the military.

Companies such as E-Systems, Electronic Data Systems (founded by Ross Perot), and Texas Instruments are selling advanced computer and surveillance equipment to state and local governments that use them for law enforcement, border control, and administering state programs such as welfare. The companies are also pushing their products to numerous Third World countries with dismal human rights records."


A well-orchestrated public relations campaign has never hurt the military; in fact, it’s always been one of the first businesses of war. (War is just politics by other means, according to the German military strategist von Clausewitz.)

We have been reading about computer innovations, especially the Internet, which have been inspired and funded by the military, so maybe these folks in uniform really have some news about technology and the future of media. Maybe our future technologies of mass entertainment are used in today’s weapons of mass destruction.

What technologies are the military developing that might be news to mass audiences today? Below are a few of the many innovations discovered using the offspring of the former DARPA network--the Internet.


ECHELON is a shared intelligence resource developed by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States, joined by similar agencies in England, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada (Communications Security Establishment). Operatives of these intelligence agencies monitor all private telephone, radio, television, mail, and email under a "signals intelligence agreement."

While the project was first reported by David Burnham in the New York Times in 1984 (“Court Says U.S. Spy Agency Can Tap Overseas Messages”), it has remained largely unacknowledged by the public for 40 years. ECHELON and its related software applications is reputed to be capable of monitoring and searching all electronic transactions between the member nations.

ECHELON is more than a series of diplomatic agreements and legislation arranged by super spy agencies; it is also a suite of software including Dictionary (keyword searching with exclusion logic software) and Oratory (speech recognition and speech-to-text software subject to Dictionary searches.) Will we eventually see this software turned over to the public—as Microsoft Surveillance 2000?--when new methods of defending national security are secretly developed by the military?

High Frequency Active Auroral Research Project (HAARP)

According to the official homepage of this military project, "HAARP is a scientific endeavor aimed at studying the properties and behavior of the ionosphere, with particular emphasis on being able to understand and use it to enhance communications and surveillance systems for both civilian and defense purposes." (http://server5550.itd.nrl.navy.mil/projects/haarp/)

While the official spin on the project—under construction near Gakona, Alaska—emphasizes its environmental and scientific contributions, critics of HAARP worry that it may be the next great weapon of mass destruction. For example, Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D., reports that HAARP intends to beam 3.6 Gigawatts of high frequency radio energy into the ionosphere to "generate extremely low frequency (ELF) waves for communicating with submerged submarines" as well as to "generate ionospheric lenses to focus large amounts of high frequency energy… that potentially could be exploited for Department of Defense purposes." In less technical terms, while HAARP promises to tell us a great deal about the envelope of gases around the planet, it could also disrupt electromagnetic signals and weather patterns. Some scientists believe this technology will be able to disrupt anything relying on electromagnetic energy (from cars to computers to ICBMs) or affect the mood, memory, and mental abilities of humans. (http://www.earthpulse.com/haarp/starwars.html)

When HAARP becomes old hat for the military, will we be able to buy consumer versions to control the weather over our homes, stop traffic in its tracks, or alter the moods and memories of loved ones?

Sound Deadening Material

At the other end of the sound spectrum, the U.S. Navy has been working on a new type of hearing protection technology to prevent hearing loss caused by low-vibration sounds from jet engines and big guns. Apparently, a quarter-inch of this new material can deaden sound equivalent to the effect of a foot of concrete. Practical applications could include use in automobiles, airplanes, appliances, and earphones reports Popular Science (http://www.popularscience.com/news/02141999.navy.html). According to Capt. Bob Hain, a medical researcher, “Noise not only affects someone's hearing…If you can't hear what's going on, it affects your ability to accomplish your mission.” Words of wisdom for every journalist and media practitioner.

Navigating Babel with SYSTRAN

The development of SYSTRAN (http://www.systransoft.com/) is another good example of the integration of military and consumer technologies epitomized by the internet. During and after WWII, the evolution of code-breaking computers lead naturally to the idea of decoding natural languages with mathematical techniques. In the 1950's and 60’s, research on Automatic Translation (known today as Machine Translation, or "MT") was significantly advanced when Peter Toma, a linguist researcher, started work in Russian to English machine translation. In 1968, Toma developed a product called SYSTRAN--an acronym for system translation--and was soon contracted to develop Russian to English MT for the US Air Force.

In 1974-1975, SYSTRAN was used by NASA for the joint Apollo-Soyuz space project. In 1975, Toma demonstrated a prototype of English to French MT to the Commission of European Communities (CEC), and was contracted to develop MT systems for various European language pairs. In 1992, SYSTRAN began to convert its patented translation technology for PC use, and in 1996 reconfirmed its usefulness to the military when it was hired to develop several Eastern European language pairs, including a Serbo-Croatian to English system for the US Government. You can now use this software online to translate to and from a variety of languages.

Language translation has strategic importance in a Babylon of electronic surveillance, national defense, international diplomacy, and just plain noise.

Spinning on the Finger of Science

The military and the communicating public are in this one together. On February 18 1999, for example, U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen addressed Microsoft employees at their campus in Redmond, Washington. His theme: what innovative high tech firms create "could not exist without a strong and ready military": "Your intellectual endeavor has reduced our oceans to mere ponds, transforming the globe into a small ball spinning on the finger of science….It can be easy to forget that this global marketplace was neither created by magic, nor will it be kept by marketing."

While Defense Secretary Cohen seems to have forgotten just why he traveled to Redmond—to market the military—he makes a good point. The PCs on our desks and the internet that connects them into the global marketplace weren’t created by magic. Like space technology, virtual reality displays, biological manipulation, infrared goggles, global positioning systems, rocket fuel fertilizer, stealth coverings, nanotechnology, matter compilers, liquid stun guns, exo-skeleton clothing, and many technologies yet to be revealed, the things that keep us connected and entertained owe a huge debt to military R&D. Not only are we volunteers, we’re helping to pay for it all.

Canadian Military Links

Amerikan Expose

Game Simulations for the Military Try to Make an Ally of Emotion: Katie Hafner

Institute for Creative Technologies: search "army"

Information Sciences Institute at University of Southern California

Integrated Media Systems Center: the National Science Foundation's Engineering Research Center for multimedia and Internet research. Major progress is being made in haptics (touch-related technologies), data compression and wireless communications. IMSC's integrated research approach is progressing toward Immersipresence, the Center's vision of the future of the Internet.

Chi Systems: the design and implementation of customized user interfaces; intelligent agent applications; multimedia applications; simulators and simulations; and decision support systems

Creating Human Behavior Models Able to Enhance Synthetic Agents Project Sponsor: Defense Modeling and Simulation Office, Pentagon. DR. Barry G. Silverman, Principal Investigator.

Source Path Isolation Engine: developed by BBN