HIGHTOWER: Echelon Has Your Number

Look! Up in the sky. It's a bird, it's a plane ... it's Echelon!Echelon is not something many Americans have seen or heard about, but chances are it's heard about you. It's a top-secret satellite and computer system that "listens" to every phone call, e-mail, and fax that is sent by anyone in the world.I realize this sounds like a fantastical James Bond movie script, but Echelon is real -- and, yes, Big Brother really is watching you! Established during the Cold War to spy on the commies, it continues its worldwide surveillance and has even been expanded, despite the fact that the Cold War is long gone. Run by the secretive National Security Agency and based in Maryland, Echelon is a joint espionage escapade of the US, England, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.Like a virtual vacuum cleaner in the sky, this system sucks up billions of fax, phone, and e-mail messages from around the globe and funnels them into NSA's supercomputers. These computers are programmed with "Echelon dictionaries" that tag key names, phrases, and words. When the computers "hear" these targeted terms, they pull the full phone, fax, or e-mail message for further analyzing ... or tracking.What names, phrases, and words are targeted? NSA isn't saying, though it would have us believe that only names like "Saddam Hussein" and phrases like "terrorist attack" are of interest. However, NSA was recently forced to admit that it has 1,056 pages of classified data on Princess Diana. Independent analysts say that Echelon also collects information on US politicians and organizations, and that it's even being used by US corporations to spy on their foreign competitors.This is Jim Hightower saying ... It's time to bring this super-secret, multibillion-dollar Echelon spy system down to earth and find out what it's doing ... and why.

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