nettime's_roving_reporter on Sat, 5 Jun 1999 23:26:34 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Fed Computer Week: US Congress, NSA butt heads over Echelon

   Federal Computer Week
   JUNE 3, 1999 . . . 18:34 EDT
   Congress, NSA butt heads over Echelon
   Congress has squared off with the National Security Agency over a
   top-secret U.S. global electronic surveillance program, requesting top
   intelligence officials to report on the legal standards used to
   prevent privacy abuses against U.S. citizens.
   According to an amendment to the fiscal 2000 Intelligence
   Authorization Act proposed last month by Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), the
   director of Central Intelligence, the director of NSA and the attorney
   general must submit a report within 60 days of the bill becoming law
   that outlines the legal standards being employed to safeguard the
   privacy of American citizens against Project Echelon.
   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. However, the European Union last
   year raised concerns that the system may be regularly violating the
   privacy of law-abiding citizens [FCW, Nov. 17, 1998].
   However, NSA, the supersecret spy agency known best for its worldwide
   eavesdropping capabilities, for the first time in the history of the
   House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence refused to hand over
   documents on the Echelon program, claiming attorney/client privilege.
   Congress is "concerned about the privacy rights of American citizens
   and whether or not there are constitutional safeguards being
   circumvented by the manner in which the intelligence agencies are
   intercepting and/or receiving international communications...from
   foreign nations that would otherwise be prohibited by...the
   limitations on the collection of domestic intelligence," Barr said.
   "This very straightforward amendment...will help guarantee the privacy
   rights of American citizens [and] will protect the oversight
   responsibilities of the Congress which are now under assault" by the
   intelligence community.
   Calling NSA's argument of attorney/client privilege "unpersuasive and
   dubious," committee chairman Rep. Peter J. Goss (R-Fla.) said the
   ability of the intelligence community to deny access to documents on
   intelligence programs could "seriously hobble the legislative
   oversight process" provided for by the Constitution and would "result
   in the envelopment of the executive branch in a cloak of secrecy."
   Copyright 1999 FCW Government Technology Group

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