Duncan Campbell (UK)
Echelon, Global Surveillance, and Human Rights

This presentation sets out the historical, factual and evidential basis for our knowledge and understanding of highly classified matters concerning the mass global interception and processing of civil and commercial telecommunications. Such understanding is important in underpinning discussion of the political and technical interventions that can secure personal and commercial communications and provide data security in the 21st century.

Since 1996, there has been increasing global interest in and awareness of the extent of the automated surveillance of global telecommunications systems, primarily but not exclusively by the signals intelligence (sigint) agencies of the United States and its English-speaking allies. Although many thousands of codenames are in use, the technically informed public now commonly knows this system as "Echelon".

Recent information suggests that the original Echelon system came into existence about 1971, and that within the signals intelligence agencies it was (and remains) the commercial communications satellite (COMSAT) collection sub-system of the global communications surveillance system. The existence of the Echelon network was first publicised in the late 1980s, when it underwent an unprecedented enlargement, including the development of Southern Hemisphere interception sites. Development has continued on an ever-increasing basis since 1990.

This presentation reports and attempts to and assimilate the best available evidence for the interception and processing capabilities of such systems, together with their implications for personal and commercial privacy and security. It also reviews the legal authority controlling such activities, and such privacy procedures as have been disclosed.

A key contemporary issue is whether the technological processes now associated with automated communications intelligence effectively nullify privacy protection safeguards, such as are set out in statutes such as the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

It is a matter of record that the signals intelligence agencies have struggled for more than 50 years to prevent access to or the general use of effective cryptographic methods by private citizens or by organisations not generally under their control. They now recognise this as a losing battle, and are in the process of redirecting their efforts.

A review of clandestine interception methods may provide pointers to new systems to be deployed in future.

Source: http://world-information.org/wio/program/events/1036424678/993052299/993054996