By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
The computing firepower involved is prodigious, but it's not unattainable. (Echelon also includes taps on the Net and, since 1971, on underwater cables.) It has been documented that Echelon monitors the communications infrastructures used by diplomats, criminals and industrialists; what's unknown is how far its net is cast and how much data is actually parsed. Worse, the heavy veil of secrecy under which Echelon has operated makes its workings opaque even to U.S. government officials. The NSA likes it like that; when Congress recently requested more disclosure on Echelon-related information, the NSA declined to cooperate, citing (to the bafflement of Congress) attorney-client privilege.
The good news is that the U.S. may be about to get its Echelon flakes frosted by the international community. Since the U.S. and the U.K. have been denying the existence of UKUSA for nearly half a century, one can only imagine how overjoyed they were to see the Australians on the record about it. Various European parliamentary bodies have commissioned reports to discover exactly what info Echelon tracks and what's done with it; a number of companies (including Boeing nemesis Airbus) have already charged the U.S. with redirecting sensitive information to "preferred" American competitors. And the backlash is widening: The U.K., formerly in virtual lockstep with U.S. calls for privacy "key escrow," has suddenly stepped off the bus. (Key escrow allows private citizens to use data-protecting encryption, as long as the government is free to decrypt it -- sort of like putting a lock on your door, but being required to leave a key hanging next to the doorbell.)
Now, before you flip the page and forget about this cant, because all this wild-eyed talk is annoying and because the government isn't really going to bother People Like Us because we're not (choose one: criminals, addicts, foreigners, left-wing, right-wing, poor, rich, online shoppers, hackers, terrorists, of color), get this straight: You may not think you're a dangerous commodity, and I sure may not think you're a dangerous commodity, but that doesn't matter. You're being tracked, hacked and attacked anyway -- just in case -- just like the rest of us.
*According to a recent article inThe Progressive Review, more than 100 of the 137 predictors or indicators of a grim, totalitarian future in Orwell's1984 have already come to pass. As for the other side, one of the most promising e-commerce sites has named itself soma.com -- aBrave New World homage that went almost entirely unnoticed.