21 December 1999

See other articles in the series:


Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 14:36:03 +0100 (CET)
From: Bo Elkjaer <boo@apollon.datashopper.dk>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com, jya@pipeline.com
Subject: INTERVIEW: ECHELON WAS MY BABY - Sigint/surveillance/Denmark


A couple of months ago I promised that I would have some articles translated that I and my colleague Kenan Seeberg has written since june about the Echelon network, the UKUSA pact and Danish participation herein as third party-member of the pact.

We have written approx. 50 articles (Something like that, anyway), and have been very busy, so translation has been moving at a crawl. Anyway, things should start to shape up, so the first articles should be online within the next few weeks. We plan to put up the whole show on our paper's website soon. Pictures, interviews, documents etc. Most of it will remain in Danish though.

Meanwhile, the Danish parliament discussed Echelon SIGINT and surveillance two weeks ago. They all agreed that danish citizens communications are intercepted on a regular basis - but they also agreed that they would _not_ start any examinations of the interceptions. For fear of disturbing our allies, it seems.

Copies of the debate are available online - in Danish - at the Parliament's own website www.folketinget.dk. I will pick out links and post them later.

On a side note the Parliament agreed that strong free crypto is the only means of protection against these kinds of interception. There will be a hearing in Copenhagen about how strong unregulated encryption should be made available to the danish people.

No need to be too optimistic though, as there are opposing trends within government on the subject of unreguleated unbreakable encryption.

I will post all translated articles here, as I get them. They will be long. Please bear with any inconveniences.


Bo Elkjaer, Denmark

Ekstra Bladet, November 17, 1999


Ekstra Bladet meets former Echelon spy. In spite of illness and angst, she now reveals how illegal political surveillance was carried out.

by Bo Elkjær and Kenan Seeberg. Photos: Martin Lepee

LAS VEGAS (Ekstra Bladet): “Even though I felt bad about what we were doing, I was very pleased with the professional part of my job. I don’t mean to brag, but I was very good at what I did, and I actually felt like Echelon was my baby.”

Ekstra Bladet meets Margaret Newsham in her home in a sleepy Las Vegas suburb. For obvious reasons we are omitting the name of the town where Margaret Newsham is trying to lead a normal life. She has never mentioned her past to her neighbors.

A past in which Margaret Newsham has been in close contact with the very core of the most secretive world of all worlds. Margaret Newsham helped build the electronic surveillance system known as Echelon.

Today she has broken off connection with the world of espionage and lives in constant fear that ‘certain elements’ in the NSA or CIA will try to silence her. As a result, she sleeps with a loaded pistol under her mattress, and her best friend is Mr. Gunther - a 120-pound German shepherd that was trained to be a guard and attack dog by a good friend in the Nevada State Police.

She sent the dog to a ‘babysitter’ before we arrived, since “he doesn’t let strangers come in to my house,” she says with a faint smile.

Only once before has Newsham told anybody about her work as an Echelon spy: during closed, top-secret hearings held by the US Congress in 1988. Today, Margaret breaks eleven years of silence by telling the press for the very first time about her work for the most extensive espionage network in the world. Margaret Newsham decided to talk with Ekstra Bladet even though her doctor advised her not to meet with us. “Since I have high blood pressure, my doctor thinks it’s risky for me to talk with you, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take.”


Newsham has gone through hell ever since she was fired from her job at Lockheed Martin where she designed programs for Echelon’s global surveillance network. When asked to work on a project in 1984, she refused because she believed it could harm the US government. Shortly after, Echelon’s wirepullers in the National Security Agency (NSA) made sure that she was fired by Lockheed Martin. Immediately afterward, she sued her former employer for wrongful dismissal and contacted the internal security commission, DCAA, which arranged the closed hearings.

“Ever since, I have felt like I was under so much pressure that it has had a fatal influence on my health,” says Margaret Newsham, who up to now has survived a seizure which left her totally paralyzed. All she had left was her sense of hearing when she was admitted to the hospital.

“I could hear the doctor pronouncing my death sentence, while my husband and three children stood by my side. The only thing that kept me going was the thought that if I died, I would lose my case. That thought was what brought me back to life.”

After regaining her mobility, Newsham suffered a cardiac arrest, and two years ago she underwent surgery for a malignant tumor. Today, she dryly states that she is living on borrowed time, which perhaps explains why she chooses to stand forward at this time.


“To me, there are only two issues at stake here: right or wrong. And the longer I worked on the clandestine surveillance projects, the more I could see that they were not only illegal, but also unconstitutional.”

Margaret Newsham is not pleased with herself for participating in spying on ordinary people, politicians, interest groups and private companies, which is exactly what she did for 10 years, from 1974 to 1984. Both the satellites and the computer programs were developed at Lockheed’s headquarters in Sunnyvale California, and in 1977, she was stationed at the largest listening post in the world at Menwith Hill, England.

“On the day at Menwith Hill when I realized in earnest how utterly wrong it was, I was sitting with one of the many “translators”. He was an expert in languages like Russian, Chinese and Japanese. Suddenly he asked me if I wanted to listen in on a conversation taking place in the US at an office in the US Senate Building. Then I clearly heard a southern American dialect I thought I had heard before.”

“Who is that?” I asked the translator who told me that it was Republican senator Strom Thurmond. ‘Oh my gosh!’ I thought. We’re not only spying on other countries, but also on our own citizens. That’s when I realized in earnest that what we were doing had nothing to do with national security interests of the US.”


In all its complicated simplicity, the American intelligence agency, NSA, together with intelligence agencies in England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, has established a system of satellites and computer systems that can monitor by and large all electronic communication in the world: phone conversations, e-mails, telexes and telefaxes. A number of other countries are affiliated as third or fourth party participants, including Denmark.

The fundamental concept of the system is to get access to all important political movements in hostile and allied countries alike and to keep an eye on all important economic movements. Knowledge is power, and the NSA knows it. Furthermore, NSA’s spies function as the only primary authority to supervise who receives what information and what it is used for.

“Even then, Echelon was very big and sophisticated. As early as 1979 we could track a specific person and zoom in on his phone conversation while he was communicating. Since our satellites could in 1984 film a postage stamp lying on the ground, it is almost impossible to imagine how all-encompassing the system must be today.”


Who came up with the name Echelon?

“The NSA. Lockheed Martin’s alphanumeric code was P415."

What did you actually do?

“Unfortunately, I can’t tell you all my duties. I am still bound by professional secrecy, and I would hate to go to prison or get involved in any trouble, if you know what I mean. In general, I can tell you that I was responsible for compiling the various systems and programs, configuring the whole thing and making it operational on main frames [large computers, ed.].”

Which part of the system is named Echelon?

“The computer network itself. The software programs are known as SILKWORTH and SIRE, and one of the most important surveillance satellites is named VORTEX. It intercepts things like phone conversations.”


You worked as an agent for the NSA, but were employed by a private company?

“Yes, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between NSA agents and civilians employed by Lockheed Martin, Ford and IBM. The borderlines are very vague. I had one of the highest security classifications which required the approval of the CIA, the NSA, the Navy and the Air Force. The approval included both a lie detector test, and an expanded personal history test in which my family and acquaintances were discretely checked by the security agency.”

The sky darkens over the cascading neon lights of Las Vegas when Margaret Newsham tells of countless infringements of security regulations and about her colleague who suffered brain damage when she partipated in the development of the Stealth bomber. Though Margaret Newsham is totally exhausted, she also seems relieved.

“This is the first time I have ever told anyone some of the things I told you today. But now I want to get Mr. Gunther soon so I feel safe again. She measures her blood pressure and looks very alarmed.

“I had better go to the doctor tomorrow morning, so maybe we should meet later on in the day.”

When she returns with Mr. Gunther an hour later, the dog inspects every room before Margaret goes in. The last thing she does before falling asleep on her king size bed is to check her pistol to make sure it is still loaded.


Lockheed Martin is the largest supplier of munitions to the US military services and to their intelligence agencies, the NSA and the CIA. During the eighties, Lockheed Martin took over LORAL Space Systems and Ford Aerospace which also deliver monitoring equipment to the espionage agencies. Margaret Newsham worked for the NSA through her employment at Ford and Lockheed from 1974 to 1984. In 1977 and 1978, Newsham was stationed at the largest listening post in the world at Menwith Hill, England. She received on-the-job training at NSA headquarters at Fort George Meade in Maryland, USA.

Ekstra Bladet has Margaret Newsham’s stationing orders from the US Department of Defense. She possessed the high security classification TOP SECRET CRYPTO.

According to information found by Ekstra Bladet in the Pentagon’s databases, the NSA had 38,613 employees in 1995. This figure does not include the many employees at private companies who work for the NSA.

Ekstra Bladet has documented the existence of Echelon in a long series of articles over the last months.

Denmark is affiliated with the Echelon network as a third party, and the most important Danish listening post is located at Aflandshage on the island of Amager.

Copyright 1999 - Ekstra Bladet - Denmark

>>Bevar naturen: Sylt et egern.<<
>>URL: http://www.datashopper.dk/~boo/index.html<<
>>PGP-encrypted mail welcomed and preferred.<<

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 14:39:10 +0100 (CET)
From: Bo Elkjaer <boo@apollon.datashopper.dk>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com, jya@pipeline.com
Subject: INTERVIEW Pt. II: I SOLD MY LIFE TO BIG BROTHER - Sigint/Surveillance/Denmark

Ekstra Bladet, November 18, 1999

Part II of interview w. Margaret Newsham



"Denmark's ministers can believe whatever they want to. I know Echelon exists, because I helped make the system." For the second day running, former Echelon spy Margaret Newsham tells about the 'Black World' of espionage - and the fatal consequences it is had on her life. Half of her espionage colleagues are dead today.

"The surveillance was incredibly target-oriented. We were capable of singling out an individual or organization and monitoring all electronic communication - real time - and all the time. The person was monitored without ever having a chance to discover it, and most of the information was sent with lightening speed to another station using the enormous digital capacity at our command. Everything took place without a search warrant."

Was all the information forwarded to NSA headquarters at Fort George Meade in Maryland?

"Not all of it, but quite a lot."

Does the system use programs that are capable of virtually scouring the airwaves based on certain categories and trigger words?

"That's one of the ways it functions, yes. It's like an Internet search engine. By restricting your search to specific numbers, persons or terms, you get results that are all related to whatever you enter.


Ekstra Bladet meets the former surveillance spy, Margaret Newsham, in her home just outside Las Vegas. By talking to Ekstra Bladet, she chooses to break her silence and tell us as much as she considers to be reasonably safe. Because Newsham is still subject to the omertà of the intelligence services. According to this stringent code of silence, she is not allowed to reveal anything about her espionage activities for the NSA.

"But it is hard for me to live with the fact that I sold my life and my freedom of speech to the largest intelligence service of the US government." On the whole, it is difficult for Margaret Newsham to lead a normal life, even though she wants to do that most of all. In 1984, she was dismissed by Lockheed Martin, which built espionage equipment for NSA. Ultimately, she refused to work on a project which she felt was a security risk. She was 'terminated' as they called it - and she sued them for wrongful dismissal.


"I experienced security breaches almost every day both at Lockheed's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California and at Menwith Hill, England. Sometimes it was utterly absurd. At a barbecue party held by colleagues from the department responsible for developing the 'invisible' Stealth bomber, the barbecue kettle was made of the same material that made the bomber invisible to hostile radar systems. Another time, somebody had coffee mugs made and all of them were covered with prints of highly classified Echelon stations. But they were also involved in actual swindling. Lockheed Martin undercut other companies to get NSA project contracts, after which they illegally transferred money and manpower to meet the contract. Since they could swindle others for hundreds of millions of dollars, they were capable of anything. That made them very deceitful, and in my eyes, they jeopardized the security of the United States Government."

Was the US Government informed about the clandestine projects?

"No. That's why we called them 'Black Programs". The government didn't really know what was happening or what the many billions were actually being used for. And I felt very loyal both to the government and to the American Constitution, which was constantly being infringed. The world of espionage was also called 'The Black World' because most of the operations were carried out in secrecy, beyond any control."

Since her dismissal, Margaret Newsham has been under heavy pressure, because her case against Lockheed Martin could mean that an open court case would shed light on the NSA's 'black projects'. Among other things, the case deals with swindling for more than 10 billion DKK (ca. 1.4 billion USD), and for the time being, her lawyer has provided her with legal assistance that is the equivalent of 140 million DKK (ca. 20 million USD).


The case has had a fatal effect on her health. Since '84 she has had a seizure that left her totally paralyzed, survived a cardiac arrest, and on top of everything else is suffering from cancer. Today, she lives on borrowed time and suffers from high blood pressure.

"It didn't help any when my husband asked for a divorce after I had survived my cardiac arrest. He is chief of security at Lockheed Martin and has also been under a lot of pressure. He was grossly harassed because of his affiliation with me," Newsham says.

She lives alone now and has struggled to maintain contact with her three children and six grandchildren. Today, she lives in a quiet Las Vegas suburb. Not even her neighbors know about her past.

"NSA's activities have not only affected me, but also my former espionage colleagues at Lockheed. Nearly half of the people I worked with on clandestine projects are either dead or mortally ill today. For example, my former boss on the Echelon project, Robert Looper, died prematurely of heart failure, and Kay Nickerson, who worked on developing the Stealth bomber, died of brain damage."

But how could half of your former colleagues die prematurely?

"I don't know how to explain it, but at one point we discovered that Lockheed's headquarters in Sunnyvale are built on top of a highly radioactive dumping ground."

What did they die of?

"Heart failure, cancer, inexplicable seizures and brain damage. Even I am going to die of cancer before my time. But I have my lawyers, my doctor and my children and grandchildren to support me. They are the people I am fond of."

What gives you the courage to continue?

"The fact that the NSA, CIA and NRO (National Reconnaissance Organization) are carrying on illegal espionage against the rest of the world. They say they are doing it to catch drug criminals, gunrunners and the like. But that doesn't give them the right to do what they're doing. They are constantly breaking the law."


In Denmark, leading politicians and ministers deny any knowledge of Echelon beyond what they read in the newspapers.

"Now they can read about me then. I am living proof of Echelon's existence. I configured and ran a lot of Echelon's programs." Margaret Newsham shows us the order that stationed her at Menwith Hill, the specifications for some Echelon programs and other internal documents. We found discarded computer remnants at the Aflandshage Listening Post in Denmark designated "VAX RED". Does that mean anything to you?

"Yes, as a matter of fact it means two things. You see, I worked on VAX computers myself, and they were used on the Echelon project.

"The color RED probably refers to the classification level. Because the security system is based on the fact that only very few people have an overall picture of everything that goes on. Therefore, some employees have red tags, some purple, some blue and so on. That means that they are only allowed to work with certain parts of the projects, i.e. the ones that are classified under the same color. As a result, very few employees have a complete picture of what is really going on. Since my tag had all the colors, I had a good overview. I was also the one who made the back-up files."


Can you understand how some people find it hard to believe that a system like this really exists?

"Yes, but it is real. We are spying on our own citizens and the rest of the world - even our European allies. If I say 'Amnesty' or 'Margaret Newsham', it is intercepted, analyzed, coordinated, forwarded and registered - if it is of interest to the intelligence agencies. I spoke with a radiologist recently, who had done exactly the same thing I had, only ten years later, in 1991, under 'Operation Desert Storm'. If only I could tell you everything, then you would understand that Echelon is so big, it's immensity almost defies comprehension." Margaret Newsham does not regret that she has been a pariah in the US intelligence community since her break with the NSA in 1984. A break that cost her her husband, her job and her health.

Is there anything you would you have done differently?

"Not for a second. It is important for the truth to come out. I don't believe we should put up with being controlled by 'Big Brother' in the future. But we put up with it now."


For ten years, Newsham worked for the US munitions and computer firms Signal Science, Ford Aerospace and Lockheed Martin. They had contracts for the development and upgrading of Echelon satellites and computers which the companies designed for the intelligence agency NSA. The NSA cooperates closely with the CIA and NRO (National Reconnaissance Organization). For two years, Newsham shared the responsibility for the day-to-day functioning of Echelon's computer network at Menwith Hill, England.  

In classified documents, which are in the possession of Ekstra Bladet, Menwith Hill is referred to as 'the largest station in the service'.

Denmark participates on a third-party basis in UKUSA, an electronic surveillance agreement.


>>Bevar naturen: Sylt et egern.<<
>>URL: http://www.datashopper.dk/~boo/index.html<<
>>PGP-encrypted mail welcomed and preferred.<<

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 14:42:30 +0100 (CET)
From: Bo Elkjaer <boo@apollon.datashopper.dk>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com, jya@pipeline.com
Subject: THEY SPY ON ORDINARY PEOPLE - Sigint/Surveillance/Denmark

Ekstra Bladet, September 18, 1999

Interview w. Duncan Campbell



"They spy on companies and interest groups," says Duncan Campbell, who has looked at the listening post at Aflandshage near Copenhagen in Denmark. "The facilities at Aflandshage are hardly distinguishable from the Echelon installation in New Zealand."

Physicist and technology expert Duncan Campbell has no doubt. Denmark is involved in illegal surveillance together with the other primary participants in the so-called Echelon system, the US, England, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

"My best guess is that the facilities at Aflandshage were additionally expanded shortly after the end of the Cold War. In 1990 or perhaps a little later."

What does that mean?

"Well it means that Aflandshage is in any case not part of NATO's defense against Russia and the other East Bloc countries like it was before. Everything indicates that the large parabolic antennas and accompanying buildings are used in the same way as the facilities in the other countries: to intercept communication from commercial satellites that transmit the phone and fax conversations of ordinary people. And to forward the intercepted information."


In addition to his physics degree, Duncan Campbell is also a journalist and has closely cooperated with a group of British women who are protesting against the largest listening station in the Echelon system. It is located in a beautiful area on Menwith Hill near Birmingham, England.

With the help of cunning tricks, the women have sneaked into the base more than a hundred times and removed thousands of classified documents from the secretive base. With the help of these papers, and from information from anonymous agents, Campbell has acquired a unique knowledge which last year resulted in an extensive report on the global surveillance, ordered by the European Parliament.

"The problem is that most democratic countries have laws that protect the sanctity of private life and do not allow the lawful political activities of their citizens to be monitored and registered. In order to monitor someone, you must have grounds for suspicion and be authorized to do so by a judge. Echelon is a total breach of these principles. A great number of categories are coded into the system, and under each category there are even more code words. Many of the words are used in normal daily conversation. Not only the rights of ordinary people are infringed; Echelon also monitors interest groups like Amnesty International, Greenpeace and private companies. Several examples of industrial espionage exist in which the US intelligence service has passed on information to US companies that was intercepted from satellites."


How can you be so sure that this is possible?

"I have seen the footage taken inside the systems while they were in operation. Both from Menwith Hill, England and Waihopa, New Zealand. TV-Free from New Zealand succeeded in filming in the Waihopa base, and the operations room was almost completely devoid of staff. The process is totally automated and operates at lightening speed. In addition, I also made a documentary for which we set up a tiny parabolic antenna beside the base on Menwith Hill. The information it intercepted was unbelievable after we positioned it to listen in on the same satellite at which the large parabolic antennas in the base are aimed."

Isn't it reasonable that the system has the capability to monitor terrorists and the like?

"Sure it is. But there is all the difference in the world between conventional surveillance and monitoring and this system in which the law is consistently and constantly being broken by the very people who should be making sure that others obey the law. They are purely and simply exchanging information which is illegal for the local intelligence agencies in the individual countries to collect."

Is it still called Echelon?

"The code name Echelon is only part of the entire system, and everything seems to indicate that they have switched codes. Last I heard it was 'Magistrand'."


>>Bevar naturen: Sylt et egern.<<
>>URL: http://www.datashopper.dk/~boo/index.html<<
>>PGP-encrypted mail welcomed and preferred.<<

Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 14:47:41 +0100 (CET)
From: Bo Elkjaer <boo@apollon.datashopper.dk>
To: cypherpunks@toad.com, jya@pipeline.com
Subject: MINISTER ADMITS: Denmark participates in global surveillance - Sigint/Surveillance/Denmark

Printed sept. 27. 99:



"Denmark participates in a global surveillance system," admitted the Minister for the Defense Hans Hækkerup under heavy pressure.

As one of the first governments in the clandestine Western intelligence cooperation, Hækkerup acknowledged during a joint council in the Danish Parliament's Europe Committee last Friday that the FE (Intelligence Agency of the Danish Armed Forces) participates in the interception of electronic communication.

Does this occur in cooperation with the NSA, which manages the so-called Echelon?

"I can't confirm that, but I can tell you that the FE has been intercepting signals ever since the Second World War - and we're still doing it."

Can you confirm that this takes place at Aflandshage on the island of Amager?

"Yes, it does, and the facilities out there have been continuously expanded over the years. We both collect and process information from satellites. "

Is this cooperation in compliance with the law?

"Yes, it is."

The Minister for Defense was summoned to a joint council by parliament member Keld Albrechtsen who was quite astonished by the Minister's admissions. Up to now, the ministries of Defense, Justice and Research have actually denied any knowledge of the controversial global surveillance systems.

The Minister stated that such satellite systems exist and that Denmark is included in them, but that this system is not called Echelon. He also stated that we have the capacity to collect and exchange information with the intelligence agencies of other countries.

Do you have any guarantee that Danish citizens are not being illegally monitored and registered?

"No, unfortunately." He evaded the question of whether the law is obeyed in regards to the cooperation with the secret services of other countries. So this system provides no guarantee for the security of life and property for the ordinary citizen. He also to refused to go into detail on the question of whether the operations occur in cooperation with other countries. Another parliament member of the Europe Committee, Knud Erik Hansen, asked at the meeting if the facilities also spied on the commercial satellites, i.e. the ones that transmit signals like telephone conversations.

He unfortunately evaded that question, too, but now the Minister for Justice must be brought to order so he can assure us that both private and commercial communication is not being monitored illegally.


>>Bevar naturen: Sylt et egern.<<
>>URL: http://www.datashopper.dk/~boo/index.html<<
>>PGP-encrypted mail welcomed and preferred.<<