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NetworkWorld: NSA moves to defuse spy network controversy

Mar 01, 2000, 17:30 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Daniel Verton)

"Days before the Feb. 27 broadcast of a '60 Minutes' story focusing on the U.S.-backed global electronic surveillance network known as Echelon, the National Security Agency sent a letter to every member of Congress reassuring them that the super-secret agency respects the privacy of U.S. citizens."

"The letter, delivered on Feb. 24 by Kenneth Heath, chief of staff for NSA's Legislative Affairs Office, included attached documents about NSA and congressional oversight and a list of frequently asked questions concerning allegations that the agency is tuning in on private citizens' communications around the world and rifling through them with the help of mainframe computers at its Fort Meade, Md., headquarters."

"Echelon is NSA's Cold War-vintage global spying system, which consists of a worldwide network of clandestine listening posts capable of intercepting electronic communications such as e-mail, telephone conversations, faxes, satellite transmissions, microwave links and fiber-optic communications traffic. The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are NSA's partners in the system. However, the European Union last year raised concerns that the system may be regularly violating the privacy of law-abiding citizens."

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