12 December 1998. Thanks to CM.
For more on NSA's Echelon program: http://jya.com/echelon-dc.htm
The Washington Post Online
NSA Admits to Holding Secret Information on Princess Diana
By Vernon Loeb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 12, 1998; Page A13
The National Security Agency has disclosed that U.S. intelligence is holding 1,056 pages of classified information about the late Princess Diana, inspiring a flurry of sensational headlines this week across London's tabloids.
"America's spy chiefs admitted last night they snooped on Princess Diana for years -- and learned some of her most intimate love secrets," The Mirror reported on Thursday. The Daily Record claimed that the NSA intercepts "have gone on right until she died in the Paris car crash with Dodi Fayed."
The truth, while intriguing, is unlikely to be so lurid. The source of the Fleet Street speculation was a simple, two-page NSA denial of a Freedom of Information Act request. In the denial, released last month, the super-secret U.S. spy agency admitted possessing a Diana file.
The document says nothing about the contents of those 1,056 secret pages, why they were gathered or how they were obtained. One U.S. intelligence official said yesterday that the references to Diana in intercepted conversations were "incidental."
Diana, the official insisted, was never a "target" of the NSA's massive, worldwide electronic eavesdropping infrastructure. The NSA system sucks up millions of electronic signals from around the world every hour, but only "targeted" communications are actually analyzed and deciphered after a vast array of supercomputers sort them out on the basis of programmed search terms, such as "Saddam Hussein."
The Diana controversy is not the only, or the most serious, dispute in Europe that has raised the profile of the reclusive NSA.
The giant spy agency, Maryland's largest employer, has been the subject of intense controversy in Britain and across Europe since a report released in January by the European Parliament concluded that "within Europe, all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency."
The report focused on a system called Echelon through which the NSA and its spy partners in Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia share communications intercepted from around the world and systematically divide the huge task of analyzing the "take."
"Each of the five [countries] supply 'dictionaries' to the other four of keywords, phrases, people and places to 'tag,' and the tagged intercept is forwarded straight to the requesting country," according to the report.
"The end of the Cold War has not, apparently, brought an end to the [NSA's] Echelon eavesdropping system," a state-funded Russian daily, the Rossiyskaya Gazeta, complained last month. "This system has become a weapon of 'economic warfare.' "
Il Mondo, an Italian weekly news magazine, called Echelon "this incredible communications vacuum cleaner."
Steven Aftergood, an intelligence expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said he can't understand why the Echelon controversy has gone unnoticed in the United States. The lack of interest, he acknowledged, may stem from the fact that the NSA is prohibited by law from targeting American citizens for communications intercepts, here or abroad.
"What is clear," Aftergood said, "is that the U.S. and our allies promiscuously collect electronic communications around the world. Whether the descriptions of Echelon are accurate or not, that much is definitely true."
The Freedom of Information Act request seeking classified material on Diana was submitted earlier this year by an Internet news service based in New York, apbonline.com.
In denying the request, the NSA disclosed existence of a 1,056-page Diana file and reported that Fort Meade, where the agency is located, had produced 39 "NSA-originated and NSA-controlled documents," totaling 124 pages.
Those documents, the NSA denial said, had been classified top secret "because their disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security."
If unclassified and released, one U.S. intelligence official explained, the damage would be caused not by the information about Diana, but because the documents would disclose "sources and methods" of U.S. intelligence gathering.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company
See original NSA/Diana news report:
Transcription of NSA letter from two GIF images:
NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY
CENTRAL SECURITY SERVICE
FORT GEORGE E. MEADE, MARYLAND 20755-6000
5 NOV 1998
This is the final response to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of 9 June 1998 for "any and all records (including but not limited to photographs, recordings, email, memos, graphs, film and video) in connection with Lady Diana Frances Spencer, date of birth 7/1/61 in Norwalk, England and date of death August 31, 1997 at Pitie Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, France." As you agreed to when you discussed the case with the FOIA case officer on 16 July 1998, we did not process any foreign press articles discovered during our search for responsive records. The elimination of the foreign press articles moved your case from the hard to the easy processing queue. After subtracting the foreign press articles from the original total of documents reported to you in our 10 July 1998 letter (1349 documents), we processed 182 documents (1,056 pages) for possible release. Of these 182 documents, 143 documents (925 pages) have been forwarded to the originating agencies for their direct response to you.
The remaining 39 NSA-originated and NSA-controlled documents (124 pages) responsive to your request have been reviewed by this Agency as required by the FOIA and have been found to be currently and properly classified in accordance with Executive Order 12958. These documents meet the criteria for classification as set forth in Subparagraphs (b) and (c) of Section 1.5 and remain classified TOP SECRET as provided in Section 1.3 of Executive Order 12958. The documents are classified because their disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security. The information is exempt from declassification in accordance with Section 1.6(d) of E.O. 12958. Because the documents are currently and properly classified, they are exempt from disclosure pursuant to the first exemption of the FOIA (5 U.S.C. section 552(b)(1)).
In addition, this Agency is authorized by various statutes to protect certain information concerning its activities. We have determined that such information exists in these documents. Accordingly, those portions are also exempt from disclosure pursuant to the third exemption of the FOIA which provides for the
[Fax header printed upside down:] NOV 24 '98 14:59 P.2
withholding of information specifically protected from disclosure by statute. The specific statutes applicable in this case are Title 18 U.S. Code 798; Title 50 U.S. Code 403-3(c)(6); and Section 6 Public Law 86-36 (50 U.S. Code 402 note). No portion of the information is reasonable segreable.
Since your request has been denied for NSA originated or controlled documents, you are hereby advised of this Agency's appeal procedure. Any person denied access to information may file an appeal to the NSA/CSS Freedom of Information Act Appeal Authority. The appeal must be postmarked no later than 60 calendar days after the date of the initial denial. The appeal shall be in writing addressed to the NSA/CSS FOIA Appeal Authority (N5P5), National Security Agency, 9600 Savage Road STE 6248, Fort George E. Meade, MD 20755-6248. The appeal shall reference the initial denial of access and shall contain, in sufficient detail and particularity, the grounds upon which the requester believes release of information is required. The NSA/CSS Appeal Authority will endeavor to respond to the appeal within 20 working days after receipt, absent any unusual circumstances.
JOANN H. GRUBE
Deputy director of Policy
[Fax header printed upside down:] NOV 24 '98 14:59 P.3
[End NSA letter]
See the NSA FOIA Web site: http://www.nsa.gov:8080/docs/efoia/
12 December 1998. Thanks to JM.
The Sunday Times Online (UK)
BY ANNA BLUNDY
A VIDEOTAPE in which the four Western hostages beheaded in Chechnya this week claim to be spies has been discovered by Chechen special services, according to a report by NTV television.
Vakha Arsanov, the Vice-President of Chechnya, is said to have shown the tape to a reporter in Grozny, the capital of the breakaway republic.
The four men - three Britons and a New Zealander - apparently identify themselves as Darren Hickey, Peter Kennedy, Rudolf Petschi and Stanley Shaw.
Mr Kennedy says in Russian: "We have been recruited by the English intelligence service. We installed a satellite aerial so that all telephone conversations on Chechen territory were heard by German, English and Israeli special services and the Central Intelligence Agency."
"They must have been forced to confess," Mr Arsanov said.
Sir Andrew Wood, the British Ambassador to Moscow, said: "We don't comment on these things in general. But any reasonable analysis would show that we have no wish to spy on Chechen territory." Mike Haddock, the embassy press spokesman, added that the embassy had not seen the tape.
The bodies of the men, abducted on October 3 from their flat in Grozny and murdered earlier this week, have not yet been found.