Friday, March 04, 2005

The NSA and The Tabernacle Of The Inquisitorial

In West Virginia is a base operated by the NSA, National Security Agency, that was originally used to monitor the message traffic of other countries. But as Patrick Radden Keefe writes in his book, Chatter: Dispatches From The Secret World of Global Eavesdropping, “The third base in the original triptych of Echelon stations was Sugar Grove, hidden in the forest of the South Fork Valley in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. The use of this site goes back to the 1950’s and early sixties, when it was home to an ill-fated effort to create a radio telescope so powerful that it could listen to Soviet radio communications and radar signals reflected off the surface of the moon. This expensive disaster involved the construction of a satellite dish that was an astonishing six hundred feet in diameter. The project was eventually abandoned, but in the 1970s the existing two-story underground operations building was augmented by a series of new
Satellite dishes, and the windowless Raymond Eugene Linn Operations Center was built. (The building is named after a naval technician who lost his life in the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, an NSA Sigint ship, on June 8, 1967.) The station began its new operations as a listening post around 1980. The area has unmatched radio quiet, because in 1956 the West Virginia state legislature passed an unusual zoning act establishing around it a hundred-square-mile National Radio Quiet Zone, which zoned out any electromagnetic interference.”

When you consider the utter devastation of West Virginia by Coal Mining companies, when you consider the patriot Act and its inclusive permission to listen, snoop, and invade the privacy of everyone they want to. The site posts this challenging piece on the Echelon listening stations, ( “The facts drawn out by these sources reveal ECHELON as a powerful electronic net--a net that snags from the millions of phone, fax, and modem signals traversing the globe at any moment selected communications of interest to a five-nation intelligence alliance. Once intercepted (based on the use of key words in exchanges), those communiques are sent in real time to a central computer system run by the NSA; round-the-clock shifts of American, British, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand analysts pour over them in search of . . . what?”
The piece continues with a chilling, very chilling expose of the Echelon listening stations, “Originally a Cold War tool aimed at the Soviets, ECHELON has been redirected at civilian targets worldwide. In fact, as the European Parliament report noted, political advocacy groups like Amnesty International and Greenpeace were amongst ECHELON's targets. The system's awesome potential (and potential for abuse) has spurred some traditional watchdogs to delve deep in search of its secrets, and even prompted some of its minders within the intelligence community to come forward. "In some ways," says Reg Whittaker, a professor and intelligence scholar at Canada's York University, "it's probably the most useful means of getting at the Cold War intelligence-sharing relationship that still continues."
Could this station be used to gather information on activists that fight against the coal companies? Do the coal companies receive regular briefings? If they sought to gather information on Greenpeace and Amnesty International, do you think they would even think twice about snooping on activists in West Virginia? Activists that is located quite close to the station at Sugar Grove. You can back an activist in a corner, you can try to intimidate them with threats, but you cannot break the spirit of someone who has lost their home or a loved one to a coal mine made dangerously unstable by a company that has committed these acts. I’m told West Virginia won’t stand for it and I have no idea to doubt them.
- Chris Mansel

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