Echelon program was worst eavesdropper

Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 12:13 a.m.
Wilma Freeman (Jan. 12) and J. A. Newkirk (Jan. 1), are only two of many one-sided thinking individuals when it comes to the "invasion of privacy." Did you know that during Clinton's presidency, phone calls and e-mails were captured and screened? Where was the outrage from The New York Times and the media during this much more "invasive and indiscriminate" surveillance program?
This was a program called "Echelon," whose mission was "to eavesdrop on enemies of the state: foreign countries, terrorist groups and drug cartels. But in the process, Echelon's computers capture virtually every electronic conversation around the world." Not only did the United States use this program, but other countries, such as the United Kingdom, did so as well.
The current controversy follows a Times report that, since 9-11, U.S. intelligence agencies are eavesdropping at any time on up to 500 people in the U.S. suspected of conducting international communications with terrorists. Under Echelon, the Clinton administration was spying on just about everyone.
According to an April 2000 article in PC World magazine, experts who studied Echelon concluded that "Project Echelon's equipment can process one million message inputs every 30 minutes." In the February 2000 "60 Minutes" story, former spy Mike Frost made clear that Echelon monitored practically every conversation - no matter how seemingly innocent - during the Clinton years. The Times defended Echelon as "a necessity."
If you didn't care that Clinton was "capturing and screening" every phone call and e-mail, why in the world would you worry about being one of 500 people (at any one time) whose phone calls were being "tapped"?
Duane Engel, Gainesville

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