29 January 2001: See Dan Verton's response.

28 January 2001

From: "Dan Verton" <Dan_Verton@computerworld.com>
To: duncan@cwcom.net
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 2001 16:40:14 -0500
Subject: Dan Verton, Computerworld (U.S.)


I'm writing a piece on this week's meeting of the special committee on Echelon.

Many folks here say that the paranoia your reports have attempted to create is losing its influence and that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the US intelligence community (as far as sharing trade secrets, competitive information with US companies) and that the European countries in question are complaining about something that they too actively carry-out (economic espionage). How do you respond to these claims?



Dan Verton
Senior Writer
Phone: (703) 321-2277
Fax: (703) 239-2258
Web: www.computerworld.com

24 January

Hi Dan,

Since you didn't, I assume, attend the hearing, you will not have heard what was said on Monday and Tuesday:

On European sigint and economic espionage:

Both the rapporteur (Gerhard Schmitt, the Vice President of the Parliament) and I referred many time to the fact that European countries (other than the UK) ran satellite sigint systems to collect intelligence. The French and German systems were specifically mentioned by MEPs.  In a presentation on these issues, I also showed slides about the Dutch, Danish, Norwegian and Swiss sigint systems. I reported on this for the British Independent newspaper last July.

The same goes for economic espionage, which I described as being conducted by France, the UK and other European nations. I gave examples of the use of the French satellite sigint system for economic espionage.

The charge that my reports have attempted to create paranoia is childish, ill-informed and stupid.  If you have read my orginal report, you will see that I debunked much of the original nonsense that was written about Echelon, such as it being a universal system capable of scanning all telephone calls. If my report got seriously attacked for one thing, it was by the (paranoid) people who didn't want to accept that NSA doesn't have the capability to switch on a tape recorder every time the word "bomb" is spoken. I'm the enemy of paranoia.

I spend the first five minutes of every meeting I do pointing out that most of what people attribute to me or to Echelon isn't what I wrote. Often, its the opposite - mythology created by secondary writers. Most of the critics and jeerers are responding to that stuff, and have seldom if ever bothered to read through the primary sources. 

Were you, when you wrote last week about "hacker zombies" or previously about Carnivore, trying to "create paranoia"? Or were you trying to do a fair and factual job of reporting? The latter, I would say, unhesitatingly. The same goes for me.  But it doesn't stop people enlarging what we report. If the Illinois Sentinel now writes a story saying "US menaced by hacker zombies, says leading computer reporter", are you trying to creat paranoia - or are they. OK?

As to the suggestion that that there is "no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the US intelligence community (as far as haring trade secrets ... competitive information with US companies)", then call me (tel. no. omitted; five hours ahead of EST, so don't call on Wednesday!!) and I will give you a sizable list of reputable US officials newspapers who have published precisely that story - from a Maryland meeting that Jim Bamford attempted in 1972 where the director of NSA spoke openly of NSA collecting competitive intelligence through to the Post, Sun, Times, NBC and others in 1975-76, through to several big pieces that Bob Windrem of NBC published last year (they are on MSNBC.COM).  Check them out. Also, have you read NSD-67? That is the (1992) directive that shifted 40% of US intelligence onto economic objectives. 

So what I would say to those people, is that they are attacking the credibility of reputable US reporters, not me. They are the ones who have said the US does this kind of stuff. And none of them have withdrawn their stories.

I agree that the concerns formerly expressed about Echelon in the US have ebbed. That's because Carnivore has been the newly fashionable anxiety since last July, so everybody is writing (and getting paranoid) about that instead. Plus, there's been a little bit of Washington me-too groupie patriotism going on, with everybody assuring each other that America wouldn't misbehave.

The attitude in Europe is different. We're open minded, and readily accept that our companies and governments, like yours, spy, bribe and cheat on occasions.    The European enquiry is going ahead on that basis.  

Best wishes,

Duncan Campbell