From the New York Times of May 27, 1999:
The report, entitled “Development of Surveillance Technology and Risk of Abuse of Economic Information”, was published on May 10 and provides a detailed account of Echelon and other intelligence monitoring systems.
According to the report, Echelon is just one of the many code names for the monitoring system, which consists of satellite interception stations in participating countries. The stations collectively monitor millions of voice and data messages each day. These messages are then scanned and checked against certain key criteria held in a computer system called the “Dictionary.” In the case of voice communications, the criteria could include a suspected criminal’s telephone number; with respect to data communications, the messages might be scanned for certain keywords, like “bomb” or “drugs.” The report also alleges that Echelon is capable of monitoring terrestrial Internet traffic through interception nodes placed on deep-sea communications cables.
While few dispute the necessity of a system like Echelon to apprehend foreign spies, drug traffickers and terrorists, many are concerned that the system could be abused to collect economic and political information. [bold mine]
Well, those “few” who dispute the necessity of a system like Echelon to apprehend foreign spies, drug traffickers and terrorists, now evidently includes the New York Times. The newspaper appears to have forgotten entirely about the Echelon program they once reported on. Selective amnesia? Of course anyone with a computer can get plenty of info on Echelon and the NSA dated 1998, 1999, etc. when another administration was in place. I can remember reading about it in various quarters and remarking to people how all our email and cell phone calls were scanned for key words. Our lives were no longer private. It was hardly secret, in fact pretty close to public knowledge – to everyone but Chuck Schumer apparently.