ARTICLE (2/29/00): ECHELON BLACK BAG OPERATION

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  "With an intelligence community of over a dozen components, billion-dollar budgets, and cutting-edge technology, the U.S. can cast a wide net, be it with human sources  or signals interception. Iraq, however, has presented a special challenge since Saddam's Ba'ath party took power in 1968. "In Iraq," says Israeli intelligence expert Amatzai Baram, "you are  dealing with what is arguably the best insulated security and counterintelligence operation in the world. The ability of Western or even unfriendly Arab states to penetrate the system is very, very limited."

According to the former Cairo station chief of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the West got this message loud and clear after Iraqi counterintelligence pulled British MI6 case officers off a Baghdad street in the mid '80s and took them to a warehouse on the outskirts of town. "They had arrayed before them the various agents they had been running," the ex ­ASIS officer told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 1994. "There were wires hanging from the rafters in the warehouse. All the men were strung up by wires around their testicles and they were killed in front of the faces of their foreign operators, and they were told, you had better get out and never come back."   Jason West and Wayne Madsen (c)1999 The Village Voice,  A Most Unusual Collection Agency.

ECHELON ENDS UP ULTIMATELY AS A BLACK BAG (i.e. BREAK AND ENTER) DIRTY TRICKS OPERATION  TO CRACK THE ENCRYPTION CODES THAT THWART IT. 

THE NEW PLUMBERS: THE SPECIAL COLLECTION SERVICE--THE LIAISON BETWEEN THE CIA AND NSA'S ECHELON.  THE DATA COLLECTORS ON THE GROUND!

Le Monde, the French newspaper, reports that the Special Collection Service is using CIA agents, specializing in covert actions, to infiltratecomputers and communication networks by such means as introducing viruses or collecting key words.  The CIA is prohibited from spying on American citizens within the U.S.  The National Security Administration (NSA)  recently denied that Echelon was engaged in domestic spying.  However, Echelon possesses data about American citizens' E-Mails, faxes, telephone and other communications world-wide.  NSA expects the public to believe that it has a "hands-off" or "eyes-off" policy regarding all this data. 

      Le Monde's February 24, 2000 article:

"A Secret Alliance Between the CIA and the NSA"

"In the United States,  NSA and the CIA have created a common agency, named Special Collection Service (SCS), whose activities are highly secret and whose role is to give to Americans, in all clandestinity (sic), information on new means to overcome the difficulties encountered by interception operations caused by progress in encryption for protection of world communications.

The existence of the SCS is not officially recognized. It is known only that this new federal agency brings together CIA and NSA teams expert in decrypting of transmissions especially protected against any intrusion which comes from the outside.

Indeed, the NSA usually carries out its remote interceptions relatively "passively:" it intercepts what it is asked to oversee. However, the encryption of communications by the same parties which transmit them has become increasingly effective. It requires time - and money - to access these communications, and it becomes difficult "to crack" without reliable and easy access to suspected equipment.

It is thus necessary to find processes which allow authentic - but secret - intrusions into the targeted systems, i.e., "active" electronic and data-processing mechanisms, like, for example, the possibility of introducing viruses, of collecting key words which will facilitate their locations with impunity, and of infiltrating computers or communication networks. Only the CIA, thanks to its agents specialized in "covert actions" - in other words clandestine operations on the ground - is able to intervene. This is the reason of this alliance between the CIA and the NSA, through joint teams which work to the benefit of the SCS."

THE LOCATIONS OF ECHELON LISTENING POSTS IN THE UNITED STATES:

SCS is now believed to be located at a new, 300-acre, three-building complex disguised as a corporate campus and shielded by a dense forest outside Beltsville, Maryland.

Other U.S.  ECHELON posts:  

NSA Headquarters, Fort Meade, Maryland Buckley Air National Guard Ground Base, Colorado Fort Gordon, Georgia (RSOC), Imperial Beach, California, Kunia, Hawaii (RSOC) Northwest, Virginia Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico San Antonio, Texas (RSOC) Shemya, Alaska  Sugar Grove, West Virginia Winter Harbor, Maine Yakima, Washington."

Jason West and Wayne Madsen in their February 24, 1999 article, "A Most Unusual Collection Agency," provided the above list of Echelon listening posts and described some activities of the Special Collection Service, notably its failure to set-up Saddam Hussein for destruction:

"A number of sources interviewed by the Voice believe it possible that Special Collection Service personnel may have been operating undercover in Baghdad.

According to a former high-ranking intelligence official, SCS was formed in the late 1970s after competition between the NSA's embassy-based eavesdroppers and the CIA's globe-trotting bugging specialists from its Division D had become counterproductive. While sources differ on how SCS works—— some claim its agents never leave their secret embassy warrens where they perform close-quarters electronic eavesdropping, while others say agents operate embassy-based equipment in addition to performing riskier "black-bag" jobs, or break-ins, for purposes of bugging—— "there's a lot of pride taken in what SCS has accomplished," the former official says.

Intriguingly, the only on-the-record account of the Special Collection Service has been provided not by an American but by a Canadian. Mike Frost, formerly of the Communications Security Establishment—— Canada's NSA equivalent—— served as deputy director of CSE's SCS counterpart and was trained by the SCS. In a 1994 memoir, Frost describes the complexities of mounting "special collection" operations—— finding ways to transport sophisticated eavesdropping equipment in diplomatic pouches without arousing suspicion, surreptitiously assembling a device without arousing suspicion in his embassy, technically troubleshooting under less than ideal conditions—— and also devotes considerable space to describing visits to SCS's old College Park headquarters.

"It is not the usual sanitorium-clean atmosphere you would expect to find in a top-secret installation," writes Frost. "Wires everywhere, jerry-rigged gizmos everywhere, computers all over the place, some people buzzing around in three-piece suits, and others in jeans and t-shirts. [It was] the ultimate testing and engineering centre for any espionage equipment." Perhaps one of its most extraordinary areas was its "live room," a 30-foot-square area where NSA and CIA devices were put through dry runs, and where engineers simulated the electronic environment of cities where eavesdroppers are deployed. Several years ago, according to sources, SCS relocated to a new, 300-acre, three-building complex disguised as a corporate campus and shielded by a dense forest outside Beltsville, Maryland. Curious visitors to the site will find themselves stopped at a gate by a Department of Defense police officer who, if one lingers, will threaten arrest.

There are good reasons, explains an old NSA hand, for having electronic ears on terra firma in addition to satellites. "If you're listening to something from thousands of miles up, the footprint to sort through is so huge, and finding what you are looking for is not a simple chore. If you know more or less specifically what you want, it's easier to get it in close proximity. And if it happens to be a low-powered signal, it may not travel far enough."

Click to read the brilliant article: "A MOST UNUSUAL COLLECTION AGENCY"

BY JASON VEST AND WAYNE MADSEN (c) 1999  How the U.S. undid UNSCOM through its empire of electronic ears http://www.villagevoice.com/features/9908/vest_madsen.shtml