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Echelon Used to Capture Terrorist 663

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the lets-be-rational-people dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Echelon was used to track and capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed." Ahh, bitter sweet victories. The article kind of explains what Echelon is, and pretty much says that those disposable phones really don't have much security at all.
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Echelon Used to Capture Terrorist

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  • by rearl (262579) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:12AM (#5483904)
    I wasn't even aware that it was acknowledged as existing by most countries, and now the UK is talking about it openly?

    I'm still undecided about good vs. evil on Echelon.
    • by gmuslera (3436) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:17AM (#5483938) Homepage Journal
      Well, if arsenic is used to kill a killer, is good?

      Tools not have moral, only the ones that use them. But give a tool like that to someone paranoic and it will be bad, very bad.

      • by rearl (262579) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:21AM (#5483975)
        There are some tools with no reasonable purpose besides evil.

        While this instance proves that Echelon can be used for good, who insures that?
        • by rfischer (95276) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:50AM (#5484196)
          ...any tool can be a weapon, if you just hold it right.
        • There are some tools with no reasonable purpose besides evil.

          While this instance proves that Echelon can be used for good, who insures that?

          Kind of a baseless arguement- you can state that for anything. A car: driving to work = good, smashing it into a person or loading it with explosives and driving it into an embasy = bad

          Guns: defending your self from kidnappers breaking into your home = good, killing someone during an armed robbery = bad.

          GameCube: Metroid = good, staying up til 3am playing on a worknight = bad

      • by Skirwan (244615) <skerwin@@@mac...com> on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:27AM (#5484518) Homepage
        Tools not have moral
        Tools have moral. Fire bad!
    • Evil. Alternate solutions exist that do not involve privacy invasion. I can root out child pornography by putting cameras in everyone's house, but the good end doesn't justify the invasion of privacy.
      • by the gnat (153162) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:43AM (#5484148)
        The counterargument to this is that if you really want privacy, you need to use strong encryption or simply forget about using mobile phones that way. In this era of high technology, unencrypted cellular communications are about as private as shouting across a crowded street. People have such short memories - remember when Newt Gingrich was overheard discussion GOP strategy on the phone by a pair of retirees with a police scanner?

        By the same token, we should simply forget about using surveillance satellites. It's when the government really starts to intrude on areas that have always been considered private, or tries to prevent us from using technology that aid privacy, that we should be really worried.
        • by wfrp01 (82831) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:00AM (#5484309) Journal
          The counterargument to this is that if you really want privacy, you need to use strong encryption or simply forget about using mobile phones that way.

          The counterargument to your counterargument is that if you don't want people to break into your house, you should build it out of reinforced concrete, use bank vault doors, and multiple layers of bulletproof glass for your windows. That's silly. Instead, you prevail upon people that breaking into people's homes is bad, and punish people who do it. Must less costly, and quite effective.
      • "I can root out child pornography by putting cameras in everyone's house"

        But why so limited? Wouldn't it make more sense to put flat screen plasma TVs with built-in cameras in every room of every home? That way, when someone does something ungood, our thoughtful and wonderful government can give them a warning to stop it. Perhaps with weekly stripsearches of every American and a full search of all their personal belongings, we can eliminate all crime. If we make being angry a crime, we can stop violence before it begins! Oh joy, what a wonderous world we can make, free from the burdens of thought, choice, or will; free from the struggles for freedom and privacy.

    • by jcoy42 (412359) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:07AM (#5484365) Homepage Journal
      Did you read the article? They say Echelon "played a key role". I would say that the $27 million they paid to an informant, and the fact that the guy was sick played a larger role.

  • Big brother (Score:3, Funny)

    by hankwang (413283) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:13AM (#5483908) Homepage
    Echelon blocks all attempts to reply to this story, which seems to be on the guardian [guardian.co.uk].
  • by Khalidz0r (607171) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:13AM (#5483912) Journal
    Because I'm not Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

    An advise, make sure not to call your children semi-terrorist names :).

    Khalid!
    • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:17AM (#5483942) Homepage Journal
      Funny you should mention that. I mean, no one thinks of calling their kids Sean, Brian, or Michael, but they are names of known terrorist in Ireland.

      Then again, there is that whole paint scheme thing again.

    • I just say the phrase "kill the president" whenever I talk on the phone. Then *they* have to listen to my boring conversations. It's amazing how creative you have to be to get that phrase into a conversation. My girlfriend thinks it's a slang term for sex, as in "come on over tonight and help me kill the president".
      • by archeopterix (594938) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:34AM (#5484083) Journal
        I just say the phrase "kill the president" whenever I talk on the phone. Then *they* have to listen to my boring conversations. It's amazing how creative you have to be to get that phrase into a conversation. My girlfriend thinks it's a slang term for sex, as in "come on over tonight and help me kill the president".
        Actually, we use "have sex" for "kill the president", so you are safe.

        Yours sincerely,

        Khalid

        P.S. Does anyone actually believe that anyone actually meaning to kill the president would use this phrase over the phone? I'd rather use "dispose of the big kahuna" or something similar.
        • by DarkGamer (462552) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:02AM (#5484322)
          A friend of mine calls moviefone and makes threats on the president's life... just to see if anyone is listening.

          "If you know the name of the government official you'd like assassinated, please enter the first three letters of thier name now."

          *beep boop beep*

          *You have chosen President Bush... please stay on the line while the secret service breaks your door down. Thank you for using moviefone."
        • by unicron (20286) <unicron@ t h c n e t . net> on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:15AM (#5484434) Homepage
          That metaphor could lead to some recorded conversations that REALLY disturbed the secret service:

          Khalid: Tonight, we will finally strike a blow for our people by having sex.

          Khalid's Associate: It will be very difficult, the sex is always surrounded by large well trained men.

          Khalid: We have long trained to have sex, the hour is upon us.

          Khalid's Associate: We will have sex during the speech at the Little Tyke Day Care Center.

          Khalid: Yes, the sex is scheduled to make an appearance there in 2 days.

          Secret Service Agent: I have NO idea what they're planning, but these fuckers are going down.

      • >> My girlfriend thinks it's a slang term for sex, as in "come on over tonight and help me kill the president".

        And then she says, "I'm busy tonight, just kill him youself, ok?" Sigh.
      • by MongooseCN (139203) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:46AM (#5484650) Homepage
        Then you're more likely to have your conversation listened to by saying "we're having sex" than "kill the president".
      • Re:Nobody caught me! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Loki_1929 (550940) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:46AM (#5484659) Journal
        "Then *they* have to listen to my boring conversations. "

        20 years ago, this would be so as the system simply looked for keywords and phrases. Now, the capability is such that the entire context of what you're saying is taken into account when determining whether or not a human needs to hear what you're saying. When you say "they", you're most likely talking about a computer that listens to your boring conversations (and emails, faxes, internet traffic, etc) anyway.

    • by GigsVT (208848) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:24AM (#5483999) Journal
      In other news, suspected terrorist Khaled Mardam Bey was arrested late Monday. The terrorist had been assisting other terrorist in communicating over the Internet via a vast crime network known as "mIRC". It is not known whether the Sep 11 terrorists used this network to coordinate their attacks.
  • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:14AM (#5483918) Homepage Journal
    (You see a bunch of guys dressed as Al-Queda, wandering through the wilderness...)

    Can THEY here me now?

    Can THEY here me now?

  • by watzinaneihm (627119) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:15AM (#5483927) Journal
    A paranoid view of echelon here [heise.de].
    It is not what they monitor that worries me, it is what they record
    • I seem to remember right after 9/11 the FBI wanted to get NSA records for their investigation into terrorist networks and the NSA announced that they were erasing a bunch of them that involved Americans or American organizations so that the FBI couldn't get them. Am I just misremembering, or did that happen. If so, does anyone have a link to a story on it?
  • by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:17AM (#5483940)

    Did you know that they can track the location of a mobile phone even if it is turned off, as long as there is some charge left in the battery?

    I just read "Killing Pablo", about the hunt for Pablo Escobar, which says that Pablo stopped using his mobile phone because he knew it could be tracked. The book mentions how it was possible to turn it on at night when Pablo was asleep, so it's location could be tracked.

    So if you find your mobile suddenly turning itself on in the middle of the night, it's time to get paranoid...

  • Umm.. Why pay? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alcohol Fueled (603402) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:18AM (#5483951) Homepage
    "They were tracking him for some time," an unnamed intelligence official told the American news magazine US News and World Report. "He would shift; they would follow."

    To me, if they were tracking him, that tells that they knew where he was. So, why didn't they just use the tracking from Echelon to capture Mohammed, instead of paying out 27 million to someone else also?



    To quote Bill Maher:

    Khalid Sheikh Sheikh Sheikh, Sheikh Sheikh Sheikh, Sheikh Mohammed!

    • by tkrotchko (124118) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:27AM (#5484024) Homepage
      Just because it on the internet doesn't make it so.

      Just because a government spokesman says it doesn't make it so.

      If your mother tells you that the stork brought you, it doesn't make it so.

      Always remain skeptical and ask yourself why they want everyone to have this information.
    • Re:Umm.. Why pay? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Elvisisdead (450946)
      The article never said if Echelon picked him up all by itself, or the human intelligence provided a key to track him by (like the cell # itself). If the only way to know about the Swiss phones was for somebody to drop a dime on him, then it was worth the 18 million USD to get that information.
  • by LittleGuy (267282) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:19AM (#5483955)
    WE GOT ONE! [imdb.com]
  • As it was intended (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shadow2097 (561710) <shadow2097@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:19AM (#5483964)
    While its still a fair target to use for Big Brother type arguments, hopefully this event will score a few points for proponents of 21st century electronic surveilance.

    This guy is a fair and legitimate target for electronic surveilance. He's a know leader of a network of individuals who are dedicated to causing harm to untold millions of people whose biggest crime is living in a country whose ideals he disagrees with. If Echelon is used fairly and honestly in these types of situations, then I will not complain one bit about the extraordinary secrecy of its network.

    -Shadow

    • by anthony_dipierro (543308) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:36AM (#5484092) Journal

      If Echelon is used fairly and honestly in these types of situations, then I will not complain one bit about the extraordinary secrecy of its network.

      In order for Echelon to find Mohammed they had to scan the voices of him and thousands if not millions of others. By design using Echelon on the bad guys requiers using Echelon on the good guys as well.

      • Every time a criminal investigation takes place, innocent people are likely to be included in police files. Why? Because it is an investigation. How can authorities determine innocence or guilt without gathering information?

        Take the case of Laci Peterson (sp?) for example. She was the lady in California who dissappeared when she was 8 months pregnant. The police have been looking for her since November or December I think. They've interviewed dozens, if not hundreds of people and probably conducted at least that many background checks on people too. Do they believe that every single person they interviewed was responsible for her dissappearance? Not likely, but how else will they be sure their information is correct unless they look everywhere?

        Can Echelon be used on more people more easily? Probably. Is there a potential for abuse? Of course. Is the principle of what it can do new to the world? No, it is just more electronic now than its manpower intensive perdecessors.

        -Shadow

        • by HiThere (15173)
          "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
          -United States Constitution, Amendment IV.

          reasonable search? I suppose that could be argued. But I don't think that any decent person would agree. What you do is you get people to say "I'm scared, protect me daddy.", and then you ignore the constitution. Judges are human too, so they are just as succeptible to arguments against fear, and for power and greed and anyone else. And that's why we're in this mess.

      • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:43AM (#5484634)
        > > If Echelon is used fairly and honestly in these types of situations, then I will not complain one bit about the extraordinary secrecy of its network.
        >
        > In order for Echelon to find Mohammed they had to scan the voices of him and thousands if not millions of others. By design using Echelon on the bad guys requiers using Echelon on the good guys as well.

        Really? You know it was a voiceprint, compared against the voiceprints of everyone on the planet? What's your clearance? And since when was I, along with 250,000 geeks reading this today, cleared for this? :)

        You don't know how it works. I don't know it works. (And anyone who does know how it works, ain't talking!)

        It's just as likely that the network was "looking" for KSM by using cell numbers, or other data that had nothing to do with voiceprints. It's also likely that once the network found something "interesting", humans probably put a few pieces together, looked more closely, and eventually concluded that yes, they'd found their target.

        But supposing you were right - did you know that cops look at everyone when they drive down the block? It's true! They have to scan the driving habits and car colors and license plates of thousands of people before they find the guy who stole your Buick last weekend, or the other guy weaving down the road half-drunk.

        And as anyone who watches FOX TV (purveyors of fine car-crunching cop video mayhem since 1986!) knows, there are even video cameras in patrol cars that run all the time! The cops are video taping everyone! Oh, the horror!

        Of course, nobody objects to this - it's called routine police work. Your car, my car, everybody on the street remains on the video tape after the shift, but the cops have forgotten about us by the time they're half a block away. And there's no guy whose job it is to watch every second of every patrol car's video tape as the cops come back from each shift, in case someone missed something - there can't be any such guy, because cops have budgets, and it'd be an utter waste of manpower.

        By the same logic, it's highly probable - virtually certain, I'd wager - that Echelon works the same way. This Slashdot post may end up in a database. (I mean a database other than Google :-) So may our phone calls. But unless the network is already looking for you, it's No Big Deal. Echelon may be vastly more powerful than the one that brings you "World's Funni^H^H^H^H^HWildeest Police Videos", but it isn't interested in you - and while it's vastly better funded than your local cops, it's still limited by the number of humans it can hire, train, and pay.

        Finally, there's a huge signal-to-noise problem, which makes it highly likely that Echelon works hard to keep people off the humans' radar than putting themon it. With crime, you don't call the SWAT team for every break-and-enter or domestic dispute. Likewise, you don't want waste your intel analysts' time with wisecracking Slashdotters (unless they need a humor break :)

        I agree with the first poster - it's very hard to describe this as "bittersweet". This is precisely what Echelon is for.

    • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:39AM (#5484118) Homepage
      If Echelon is used fairly and honestly in these types of situations, then I will not complain one bit about the extraordinary secrecy of its network.

      I think the main problem people have with Echelon is that the European Commision investigation into it concluded the US was using it for corporate/economic sabotage, for instance shortly after an executive of some big aerospace company talked about a bid they were making on a phone, a large american firm who was also making a bid changed their numbers to be slightly less than what the european one was bidding.

      So, the worry is that when there aren't any terrorists to catch, it will be and has been used for other things.

  • heh (Score:5, Funny)

    by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:20AM (#5483966)
    Looks like mr Mohammed wasn't wearing his tinfoil hat...
  • by irving47 (73147) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:20AM (#5483970) Homepage
    We can argue abou the wisdom of echelon, using it, or even writing articles in the papers about it... (Something I think is really not in our national best interest.) All I know is if I hear one word from the ACLU about this guy's civil liberties or privacy being violated, I'm going to start hoping they turn into cactus fertilizer.
    • Re:We can quibble, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Loki_1929 (550940) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:57AM (#5484765) Journal
      "All I know is if I hear one word from the ACLU about this guy's civil liberties or privacy being violated, I'm going to start hoping they turn into cactus fertilizer."

      So long as the Geneva convention and international treaties are followed, you'll not hear a word from the ACLU. I doubt you'd hear much anyway, so long as he's not an American citizen.

      The ACLU is an organization dedicated to the defense of the United States Constitution. In effect, they do nothing more than live by the oath that every President swears to. If you have a problem with the defense of the US Constitution, then perhaps another nation (such as China) would be more to your liking.

      Now, I've heard plenty of junk blasting the ACLU as a bunch of liberal hippies, but when they're willing to stand up and defend the rights of those such as the KKK, I think it pretty much blows that argument out of the water.

      What you say and what you believe may go against every principle and belief that the members of the ACLU stand for, but we will stand up next to you and fight to ensure that you have the right to express those beliefs. I think it's great that we have an organization in this country willing to stand up for the people no one else will, because I believe, as our forefathers did, that when the rights of one are violated, the rights of all are endangered.

  • But is it him? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ravenscall (12240) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:21AM (#5483976)
    Considering This [paknews.com] and This [atimes.com], He may already be dead.

    I find the entire thing suspect personally.
  • by Wino (655084) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:22AM (#5483981) Homepage
    The rival magazine Newsweek quoted a Middle Eastern intelligence source as saying that an unidentified al-Qaida member "turned over and made a deal with the United States", taking the $25m reward offered and extracting a supplementary $2m in order to relocate with his family to the United Kingdom. A US law enforcement source confirmed that the payment had been made, the magazine said.

    $25M and a legal visa... terrorism seems to pay well.

  • by epicstruggle (311178) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:23AM (#5483993)
    and in particular pervasive surveillance is that from time to time you will actually catch the bad guy. The problem/question is how much is too much for the amount of gain. I think that people are being unreasonable to request no surveillance and expect bad guys to be captured. There needs to be a national debate to determine how much the govermnent should be keeping track of to get the bad guys, the smaller the holes in the net, the more terrorist will be caught. But those false positives, will be awfull mad when caught by mistake.

    later,
  • by MightyTribble (126109) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:27AM (#5484028)

    It seems it was a tip-off, not Echelon, that ultimately led to Mohammed's capture. Read the article, and you'll see that some lucky Al-Quayda grunt turned coat and pocketed a cool $25 million dollars.

    It's in the US's interests to hype Echelon ("Woooo! We can seeeeeee you!") rather than admit they really got their man through good old fashioned bribery and traitors. Sure, Exchelon helped once they KNEW THE GUY'S STREET ADDRESS. But it was pretty much useless until they were told where to look.

    Still, good catch. Here's hoping there's another footsoldier of god out there who'll take $25mil in small bills in exchange for Osama's current location.
    • $25 million can buy a lot of box-cutters.
      • by guacamolefoo (577448) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:58AM (#5484274) Homepage Journal
        What's the going rate for a suicide bomber in Palestine these days? Isn't it something on the order of $5,000.00 or so? That's a lot cheaper than a cruise missle. Paying 25,000,000 simoleons to a filthy, radical muslim who maybe is an Al-Quaida turd burglar seems like it might lead to some of that money going into operations against the US.

        Wouldn't that be the ultimate irony? Terrorists turning in each other to fund more terrorism with the reward money... Talk about a viscious circle.

        Khalid: "We're running low on funds for new operations because of those imperialist infidels. We neet to raise cash, Osama!"

        Osama: "The devil dogs [topsecretrecipes.com] have indeed reduced our sources of funding, but we do have one option remaining..."

        Khalid: "Yes, Osama? How can we raise money to fight the imperialist crusad... Urk!"

        Osama: "Heh..."

        GF.
        • by glesga_kiss (596639) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @12:07PM (#5484843)
          The suicide bombers don't do it for the money. Most of them have lost familly to whoever they are attacking, and they feel it is the last resort to stike back. Of course, our propaganda makes them look like raving religious zealots, when in fact they are just very pissed off people.

          It doesn't excuse what they do, but it doesn't help the problem by the media lying about their motives.

          Our media presents a very disgraceful bias on these affairs. May I recommend that you take a look at this article [gla.ac.uk], which is an analysis of the fairness of the media reporting.

  • UK Royal family... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:29AM (#5484038)

    Something I've always wondered...

    Quite a few years ago, there was a spate of embarrassing phone calls by members of the Royal family that found there way into the press. The phone calls were "acidentally" overhead and taped by amateur radio enthusiasts. There was reported evidence that the phone calls had actually been played repeatedly near the homes of these amateur radio enthusiasts - presumably as a way of leaking the calls without it being traceable back to the leakers.

    What has never been explained (or at least I've never come across any explanation in the mainstream press) is who did or might have done this, and why.

    In a similar vein, it was never explained how Colin Powell had a transcript of Bin Laden's last taped message, before the al-Jazeera station even had the tape. To me that means either:

    1) It was a fabrication or
    2) They know where Bin Laden is.

    • by prentiz (565940) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:38AM (#5484108)
      It is important to note that in the case of the UK royals they were using old analogue phones which you could overhear on a scanner (remember doing so when i was a kid!).

      I think a more plausible explanation is that the hams in question knew what they were looking for and went out to find it.

      Equally communications interception (possibly between intermediaries) is a more plausible explanation as to how the US got the Bin Ladin tape.

    • by bourne (539955)

      In a similar vein, it was never explained how Colin Powell had a transcript of Bin Laden's last taped message, before the al-Jazeera station even had the tape.

      Correction: before al-Jazeera admitted they had the tape publicly. Or do you believe their denial of ever having heard of the tape and then airing it as Powell had predicted?

      If al-Jazeera isn't thoroughly compromised internally via both human and electronic assets, than the CIA/NSA aren't doing their job. They're clearly a very likely avenue for tracking OBL. No doubt we knew before half of al-Jazeera did that the tape had shown up in the shipping room.

      • by pubjames (468013) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:50AM (#5484694)
        Correction: before al-Jazeera admitted they had the tape publicly. Or do you believe their denial of ever having heard of the tape and then airing it as Powell had predicted?

        I know that the establishment in the USA has now portrayed Al-Jazeera as "baddies", but they they are actually one of the few Arabic languages stations that have a dedication to fair reporting. Not only that, but Qatar (the country where Al-Jazeera is located) is a democracy and what we would call "advanced". Just because they are Arabs does not mean that I am automatically assume what they say is a lie, just as I don't automatically assume that everything the establishment say in the USA is the truth.

        The chief editor at Al-Jazeera told the BBC that he didn't have the tape when Powell read the transcript, and said the tape was handed to the station it later in the day. I have no reason to believe he is lying.

        Unfortunately it seems that in the USA these days the general population has been brainwashed into thinking "USA - good, moral, truthful... Arabs, Chinese, French, foreigners generally - bad, immoral, liars).

        If you do a bit of research into Colin Powell, you will find that he is not quite as squeaky clean as he is currently portrayed.
  • by EvilTwinSkippy (112490) <yoda AT etoyoc DOT com> on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:29AM (#5484040) Homepage Journal
    I remember when stories like this were science fiction fodder.

    People, we live in a new world. The same technology that allows us to expose the dirty laundry inside of corrupt organizations can also be used to expose and dirty laundry in your hamper.

    The rules of the game have changed. You can no longer sit back and wonder if someone can see what you are doing, good or bad. They either can observe your actions directly, or they can retrieve the records to reconstruct the event. Political parties now have databases of everything someone has said in public, and can quickly cross reference even the most obscure quote. Sportscaster have massive databases of player statistics and can call up on a whim every dropped ball or missed catch.

    What begs the question in my mind, is what are the rules of courtesy? When do you draw the line between what can be retrieved and what should be retreived. Too many people assume that just because you can do something you are compelled to do it. That is a fallicy that was first recognized by the greeks.

  • by Highwayman (68808) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:30AM (#5484043)
    If they "had been tracking him for some time", I wonder why they waiting so long to do anything. I suspect that the human intelligence had more to do with it than the alleged use of Echelon. The last person I would believe is some anonymous, talking-head Echelon apologist. I think there is some FUD involved. Exactly how do you provide oversight over a project like Echelon? I think that the system is probably used more to spy on people whose whereabouts are known than to track down some people in some sort of Hollywood "Bourne Identity" drama. If Echelon was designed to be a lost-and-found device that actually found Mohammed, I think you would hear a lot more chest-thumping from the intelligence community. The rest of the article is the real story. The NSA/CIA/EIEIO paid off some guy who sold his boss down the river.
  • by Uninvited Guest (237316) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:44AM (#5484152)
    Given what little we now know about Echelon's capabilities, how could you avoid identification and triangulation? Encrypted phones only help so much. They disguise your voice and the content, but they narrow down the monitoring pool, since only so many people in the world will have or use encrypted wireless phones. Echelon can simply triangulate ALL of the encrypted calls and narrow the search to the most likely targets. Using multiple anonymous wireless phones clearly doesn't help; the subject of this article was caught despite their use. Should the you leave the phones connected all the time, and fill the air time with idle chatter? Should you use wireless voice-over-ip in an anonymous setting, such as an Internet cafe? How can you initiate a real time voice conversation with who you want, when you want, without revealing your own identity, location, or conversation content? If I understand the implications of this article, the solution does not involve wireless phones.
  • by malraid (592373) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @10:51AM (#5484210)
    It seems that a lot of people are saying that it's good that the terrorist was caught, but that the goverment should be able to spy like that on us? Shouldn't the government be able to spy on terrorists? If you have dealings with a terrorist (either on purpose or by mistake) you can get caught by a LOT of other means, and then you'll have a bunch of things to explain.

    Some weeks ago, the store that my parents own was robbed. They put a gun to my father and mother. They even put a gun to my 4 year old sister. Luckily no one was hurt. They also stole my father's cell phone, and even answered when we called. Do you think that I would be happy to be "tracked" by my phone's location, just so those assholes could have been caught? I sure will.
  • *Argh* Give it up (Score:3, Insightful)

    by forgoil (104808) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:08AM (#5484377) Homepage
    Isn't it time to get dirty and fire up the good old spy tricks again? I refuse to belive that the US can fight terrorism for very long by sniffing conunications. Either they will start using heavy crypto (or simply throw out a huge string of random characters, and look at 42, if it happens to be 13, it's time to go ahead) or use code words that won't mean dingy shit to the US super spy computers.

    This can't be the way to go forward, and I am not especially impressed by the modus operandi of letting terrorist go free AND pay them, just because they rat on the next in line. By the account all but Usama and Saddam could get out of this both rich and clean...
  • ALLEGED Terrorist (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Stiletto (12066) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:13AM (#5484419)
    ... or are we going to just skip that whole pesky "due process" thing and just string him up by his nuts in the public square?
    • by Loki_1929 (550940)
      "or are we going to just skip that whole pesky "due process" thing and just string him up by his nuts in the public square?"

      You know, you're right. Once we begin down the road of assuming all terrorism-related arrests are righteous, we get to a point where we take the benefit of the doubt away from the accused in all situations. It's at that point that the entire criminal justice system becomes a sham, no better than that of Iraq or China.

      It's truly a shame that people throughout the world are so afraid that they shed their ideals about justice and humanity as though they were a burden.

      Moderators, don't punish this person for making a rarely-made and very unpopular point. You may totally disagree with him, but reply - don't moderate. He wasn't trying to be an ass, and he wasn't repeating what's been said 100 times in the war on terrorism. In fact, he's saying something that we almost never hear anymore - respect the rights of the accused.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:17AM (#5484451)
    I doubt he was using a disposable phone -- probably it was a Swisscom prepaid SIM. Swisscom SIMs can be purchased without ID and unlike many other prepaids can be used to make international calls. That by itself is not unusual, but using such a SIM in Pakistan probably got the attention of the American government.

    For those who don't know what SIMs are -- they are consumer-inserted subscriber ID cards found in all GSM phones (normal cell phones outside the US).
  • by CommieLib (468883) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @11:28AM (#5484528) Homepage
    It was the Patriot Act that enabled authorities to use foreign intelligence...something to think about.
  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @12:58PM (#5485273)
    Let's stipulate that catching terrorists is good, and that echelon has been instrumental in catching a terrorist.


    The potential for abuse of echelon is still great and that's what, IMO, makes echelon dangerous.


    It's not too hard to imagine a world where unrestricted police authority would result in the capture of more criminals.


    Do we want to live in this world? (Or, "Do we want to admit we are becoming this world?") Why not?


    It's significant that the supporters of such totalitarian policies have now become this bold. The conversation goes something like this:

    "Privacy breeds terrorism. You should give up privacy."

    "If you advocate privacy, you're advocating terrorism."

    "You're hiding something, therefore you must be guilty. Of terrorism."

    "You are an enemy combatant."

    "No, you may not speak to a lawyer; you could send messages to your terrorist friends."

    "No, we will not tell your family where you are. Then your terrorist friends will know we have you, figure out how we caught you, and plug their security hole."


    "Mommy, why didn't daddy come home?" "Shh, dear. He was "disappeared" by the secret police. We can't talk about him anymore or they will take us, too."


    But that would never happen here. Hooray Echelon.


    Those who would trade freedom for... (you know the rest).

  • Aha! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @01:23PM (#5485447) Homepage Journal
    So, spyware is utterly unmentionable, even to elected officials with both the right and the need to know, but exists when someone gets caught, and then conveniently gets forgotten about when the publicity dies down.

    Great.

    I don't care if Echelon is useful, works, or can feed the ducks at a range of 2000 yards, if those running it are unwilling to be honest, but eager to cash in on free publicity. A tool can never be safer or more dangerous than the person it is in the hands of, and I am never more wary when those hands are very very good at media slight-of-hand.

    The agencies involved may well be trustworthy, but they have a lousy way of showing it, IMHO. They may have good intents, they may well even be good at protecting those nations they are intended to protect. That's not the point, here. Stage magicians can show you an empty hat and then pull a rabbit out of it. I don't expect the same from a Government agency. This is not going to be good for anybody's confidence, and rightly so.

    Please note that I'm not arguing for or against Echelon here, for or against national secrets, etc, or any of that stuff. All I am saying is that smoke and mirrors should NEVER be taken as a sign of sincerety, no matter WHAT the outcome, and that PR stunts are DEFINITELY NOT a sign of trustability. This is definitely a Code Red Skepticism Alert, whether Echelon exists or not.

  • Oh Well (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 4of12 (97621) on Tuesday March 11, 2003 @01:54PM (#5485741) Homepage Journal

    Well, I think the result is a net positive, but of course I have to be anxious that the authorities in control of the Echelon technology do not use it for means that bring about general unhappiness. [ie., imagine any authoritariam regime given that power...]

    In the long run, though, I'm saddened that the image of the U.S. (which is increasing battered on the international stage, sometimes correctly, sometimes not), is further tarnished because we are becoming known for invading the privacy of citizens of the world, while ostensibly respecting the 4th Amendment for our own citizens (though with the Patriot Act and the proposed DSEA, that will soon become history).

    The United States bolsters the case of those who hate it. The minute "democracy" and a "Bill of Rights" is introduced into a postwar Iraq, the people will spit on their newly found rights, listen to local demogogues, mullahs or others, and vote into a power a new strongman.

    Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

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