NetworkWorld: NSA moves to defuse spy network controversy

“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.
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.”