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October 21 is 'Jam Echelon' Day 223

samsonite writes "For those familiar with Echelon, 21 October 1999, has been set as the day for everyone to put harmless, yet "subversive" words in emails and postings to overload the Echelon machine. Echelon was once considered a mythical machine that watched all email, internet traffice, phone calls, etc. for "key" words - maintained by the US, among others. " For more information on Echelon, click here. Now, it's time to run my script with verboten words - check out the article for a list.
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October 21 is 'Jam Echelon' Day

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  • Yeah, that's what it *started* as down here (yay Paul Revere and company), but nowadays our friendly government (via the always-correct-on-terminology media) thinks that someone will get the same sorts of revolutionary ideas in his/her head that were originally directed at Britain by folks named Washington, Jefferson, Weishaupt, Adams, and company.

  • Not necessarily... If they turned it off, then they may miss all the communication they may actually be interested in.
  • jarv, this is not the way encryption works. no one can crack a large enough key. i seriously doubt they can crack even a 1024 bit key, let alone a 2048 long key. the keys get *exponentially* harder to crack.
    it would take my home computer a billion years to crack the 1024 bit key (brute-force, that is). if their computers are a billion times faster, it still takes them a year.
    plus, if i add a bit to my key length, it would take them twice as long. so it is a matter of effort: the race stays even when the cracker doubles his computer power, and i add a few puny bits to my key length. just to stay on the safe side here, i choose to add 1000 bits to my key length. no one can crack it.
    and just for the record: the Echelon is not some fantasy of weirdo paranoids. the European Parliament has officially acknowleged its existence - ALL communications between the US and europe pass through echelons servers - e.g. not just email and packets, but also phone conversations. i seriously doubt that anyone can actually do anything with this amount of data - but i don't doubt they have the machines to process it all.
  • Subject: our "BIG PLANS" and the MANIFESTO
    Date: 21 Oct 1999
    From: Your.Name@domain
    To: Some.Lucky.Friend@domain


    I am glad to hear that our TERRORIST friends in HONDURAS and ALBANIA have received the latest shipment of GENETIC WEAPONS, MUNITIONS and BOMBS we SMUGGLE past those COUNTER-INTELIGENCE NAZIS at the FBI in containers of QUICHE!

    I will never forgive the them and the CIA for the ASSASSINATION of CHEWBACA!

    Ever since we discovered their PLOT with the NSA to use that PLUTONIUM and COCAINE on KENNEDY, I haven't been able to stop thinking about DOMESTIC DISRUPTION, REVOLUTION, JUNTA, and/or JIHAD!

    The FSF really has been helpful in our SUBVERSIVE activities by supplying AK-47s, CRYPTOGRAPHY, and that DELTA FORCE training for our MILITIA!

    Once we expose NORAD's lies about the SERBIAN-SOUTH AFRICA-WORLD TRADE CENTER-SDI incident, we will alert our PLO and SOVIET COMRADES that the CLASS STRUGGLE has been reborn and the time for playing PAC-MAN is near!

    By THE way, I think something IS wrong with MY ``Caps-Lock'' KEY!


    P.S. Hello to all my friends in domestic surveilance!

  • That's right

    Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK
    The people at WACO where all religious nuts
    No Project Phoenix in Vietnam
    No testing of Radioactive material on Cancer patients in the 40's
    All minorities in jail's are criminal's
    The justice system recognises equality of economic circumstance
    There are no special lobby groups swaying our politician's
    No large Multi National's have a say in Government Policy
    Nothing happened in Cambodia under Pul Pot
    The USA never deposed the Shah of Iran
    Never exported chemical weapon's either
    All defendant's during the Macarthy period where guilty

  • Problem with using crypto is that to use it you need to have all of your friends and business contacts to use it too... which means that we need a standard, free and secure mail crypto format that is standard in Outlook Express, Netscape and Eudora (yes, 99% of the world doesn't use pine...). So far S/MIME is badly supported by all these packages and you need paid certificates to encrypt messages. PGP and other Unix packages are fine but my grand-mother is not very good in installing packages on Linux...
  • Of course, all _real_ terrorists would stick those keywords in their .sig too, since then the NSA wouldnt read their mail, right?

    I wonder if its all just some sort of fraud. Such a system would be incredibly easy to fsck around with, but if its an NSA directors nephew owning the company supplying the hardware, maybe the actual usefulness doesnt matter.
  • Well, you have to admit that if /. didn't have some sort of filtering device then it would be in danger of some potentially major DoS attacks. Though I would expect that instead of refusing your POST, maybe a "lameness filter" should just automatically moderate it down to -1 (though warning you beforehand).
  • Wackenhut has been contracted (if not now, then in the past) to do the security at most, if not all, nuclear reactors, Hanford, etc. (there was a SPY magazine article a few years ago on Wackenhut Corp.)...

    Wackenhut has an "interesting" history, according to that article...

    As much as Tom Clancy's literary style (OK, what literary style?) has gotten worse as he continues to write, he sort of hints well at some of the special relationships companies can have with the darker elements of the govment pretty well...(I just finished reading "Rainbow Six". It was OK.)

    BFD if Wackenhut Corp. allows its guards to "rape and beat the prisoners", when the "real" guards have done this all along. Separate the "rape and beat the prisoners" (which is just be plain wrong) from private company vs. govment. But, also, prison isn't supposed to be fun, either.
  • by Paul Crowley ( 837 ) on Thursday October 21, 1999 @03:23AM (#1597684) Homepage Journal
    ...but maybe you'd feel different if you found out more about COINTELPRO [].

    I can also echo the comments of the poster who observed that large-scale surveillance of "subversives" (eg CND organisers) was certainly in place in the eighties, and by many indicators has not slacked off.
  • NSA monitors EMF transmissions. The ESM satellites that pick up US stuff up from geostationary orbit are outside the "airspace" of the US, so they download to someone else. Or, if they are over the US, they're ostensibly listening for traffic in Mexico or Central/South America with the same satellites. Still, the US traffic gets shunted to someone else (who then gives it back to us).

    Besides, any fool can make a scanner for listening to cell phones. Any fool can make a packet sniffer for their cable modem segment (heck, just get the software for Linux...). What the NSA can do is use some derivative of the SETI hardware to easily packet sniff an OC3 or DS1 in real time, etc., plus the integration, despite silly laws to the contrary.

    Why should Congress pass silly laws to "protect" cell phone users, when they would never think to protect other cordless phones (you don't use one, right), instead of saying, "Well, Newt, you were a silly, narcissistic fool for thinking that your cell phone conversations wouldn't be listened to by your political enemies. You should have gotten a PCS or GSM phone"?

    And, while the FBI or other police agencies might not be able to directly monitor without a warrant, it does nothing from stopping you or me from wearing a wire all the time and recording interesting stuff on our own, and then later giving that info to someone else (Linda Tripp ring a bell? But there have been others wearing white hats, such as the two guys profiled recently on one of the network shows who got involved with the Mob and started taping stuff ON THEIR OWN and later gave it to the Feds, but were ratted on/found out, and died while in the Witness Protection Program...)

    Sure, there are stalking laws, but if you're being harassed by a neighbor, and the cops don't believe you, so you set up a web cam or two to do your own surveillance system, and take the tapes of the guy poking around your yard at odd hours, peering in your windows, etc., to them to make them believe you...

  • bomb kill die grenade explosion masacre murder destroy police NSA FBI CIA Government USA US Congress kill everyone Bill Clinton Clinton Administration Everyone must die Guns random violence protest abuse victim carnage suicide hostile takeover storm troops militia military law 1st Ammendment US Constitution Human rights Iraq Iran Libia Supply rockets lauchers war dead die kill echelon sniper Evil Linux Penguins Embassy Embasador Gun Ship Helicopter Assult Attack Destoy Eliminate Destruction Plastic Explosives Dynamite Sentex Uprising Tear Gas Bullets Knives Bill Gates Tony Blair... And many more :-)
  • The article was ok until I found the word list from "The Anti-Defamation League". Vince Foster? Ollie North? Gun? These people are loonies. Somehow I doubt the NSA has time to pore over messages that contain the word 'gun' or 'drug', much less crackpot militia theories about Vince Foster. And I'm sure the NSA is real worried about the remaning Davidians.

    's why I did a shorter list, FBI, C4 Mossad, Kill,
    President, NSA, a few others... Things that are sure to be relevant.>:)

  • If we put our heart to this, I bet Echelon adds "Slashdot" and "Slashdot Effect" to their list of keywords. :)

    "There is no surer way to ruin a good discussion than to contaminate it with the facts."

  • I don't think such a thing would have been possible in the sixties.

    No, you are wrong. Remember, the British invented radar and a whole lot of other implausible things long before the technological tools we have grown used to an now depend upon became available. If you absolutely had to solve this problem, and you had to do it all with analog circuitry, or offline computation, going back & forth & back & forth over regular analog tape, whatever, you would, even back in the 60's. E.g., spectrum analysis has been around for some time, methinks you're carrying around a pretty good spectrum analyzer in each inner ear.

    I'm not saying that this was actually done, just that it's not implausible.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, I have to say that I had the opposite experience. When I was in high school, I met up with a uber-geek on IRC. (This was in early ninties). What eventually happened was that I spent 4 hours going over some ideas and stuff about gravity cancellation. Apparantly this guy and 4 other dudes had come up with an expiramental(sp) system to (essentially) eliminate gravity. I started doing some probing around the library at the local university into some grand unified theory stuff. Did more research (admittedly, no proofs) on this stuff. I kept to myself quite a bit on this.. after all, I was in highschool. This stuff seemed pretty amazing. But this guys story was what freaked me out. Apparantly they had a rich guy, a scientist (ex government) and another guy. He had actual data readings and design documents. Well, to make a long story short, they applied for a patent. The government offered to purchase the patent for 1M. The group said no. Well, the scientist disappeared. The rich guy got amnesia. An engineer guy got shot in the head. This guy freaked out for about 10 years, before I met him. Well, you might all be thinking so what. Well, when I started doing more research on this stuff, I was being watched. My apartment was broken into.. but nothing was stolen. My mother was harrased. A couple of friends of mine starting asking *totally* fscked questions. (Keep in mind that I never told anyone about this, and I kept all written documents to myself). So, I know I was messed with by someone. I don't know who, and nor do I care to find out. But it does happen. I guess they're just happy I didn't go and build it.
  • It's a warning.

    "Shut up about this Echelon thing or else we'll launch congressional investigations and media crusades to make you look like a big national security threat, like we did with the militias after the Waco operation."

    "We" being "THEM" -- the sinister conspiracy that seeks to complete their domination of the world from beyond the shadows.

    You just gotta read (and possibly write) between the lines.

  • Sure, there's nothing more pretentious than college students with a cause, but this little social experiment, as stupid as it is and it is ECHELON-KEYWORD:STUPID, might just stir some minds.

    The more I hear about echelon the more of a joke it sounds, but it is an attention grabber. A little bit ago the British government admited to having their own 'echelon' in the 60's which scanned voice phone transmission to Ireland looking for certain words. That was the 60's. Am I going to say how much more powerful technology is today. Nope. I just wanted to point out the lack of civil liberties in this situation and the case in point is not science fiction.

    The main worry is that the government wants to monitor communications traffic. Remember FIDNET or that new proposal to block encryption? Only the very paranoid, pretentious, or criminal types think they're actually being watched. The rest of us should be worried enough to not let the government compromise our rights.

    Hopefully the stir from from this will show people that their privacy is in jeopardy and the fight to keep these rights is going on in congress right now. Most people's actions may be irrelevant, but their rights certainly aren't so.

    If we're ending with quotes here, how's this one grab you? "The price of freedom is eternal vigilence."

  • Wired had a story [] about this sort of research in March of last year. It's a load of crap. Even fa-chrissakes Wired Magazine decided it was crap. Exciting "wouldn't it be cool if..." crap, but scientifically, it's up there with astrology and psychology in the annals of pseudoscience. I'd love to see this patent application your buddies filed. We all know patents are valid scientific proof-of-concept right?


    We hope your rules and wisdom choke you....

  • (read with ascii green beeping character mode on)
    sitrep: echelon report: key word hit rate %20 -->
    "some plutonium and am ready to start Operation
    blow up the white house"
    -- origin:
    (/stupid hollywood terminal mode off)

    Meanwhile, down in the depths of NSA...
    "Hey, some guy named 'sweetooth' is planning to
    blow up the white house with plutonium"....

  • Somehow, I think that a semi is a fairly weak comparission compared to Big Brother's lovely Project. I'm thinking along the lines of a large cruise ship or an aircraft carrier. (maybe battle ship?)


  • Using cypher 18472-62 please send me the co-ordinates to pick up my chinese made nuclear device. The funds are prepared and ready in a Swiss bank account for transfer upon successful verification of the device's functionality.
    Also, hold my order of anthrax. I'm having problems locating a suitable missle delivery package. If you can provide both, i'll double the original bid.
  • This business of sticking key words in email seems awfully ineffective. First of all sticking them in your sig makes them really easy to filter for. Second of all it only prevents email scanning on a massive scale. If say your empolyer wanted to scan through your email they could without too much effort. And would probably be looking for different words than you're sticking in your sig.
    Why not just use crypto, and be certain that no one is reading your email. Widespread use of crypto would make scanning email completely impossible, since the computer power required to crack it all would be unattainable.
  • The east germans monitored all telephone communications way back in the day. With analog gear at that. So echelon would be no problem for a deep pocket (read mine and yours) organization like the NSA and no accountability to the people for the use of said funds.
  • I have a pretty basic question. My version of netscape encrypts with 128-bit RC4 enccryption. According to Fortify's website (, such encryption is "a high-grade encryption connection, regarded by most experts as being suitable for sending or receiving even the most sensitive or valuable information across a network." While this encryption is for web transactions, and not for e-mail, I'm wondering if a 128-bit key can really be this secure.
    As far as we can tell, yes. With today's technology, a 128bit Symmetric key is unbreakable, provided the underlying crypto algorithm isn't flawed. No flaws are known in SSL at the moment - but it is a field where you can't prove the negative :+)
  • That is SUCH a good idea! I love it! Even if it's mostly just a bunch of paranoia, it's really funny. I wonder if we'll see anything come of it? Like, sideeffects of bogging down our friends the NSA's information (read: spying) network?


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • "The Man does not care about you! You are not interesting to the Man! The Man consider the lint on his Armani suit to be more important than your entire existence, the existence of your parents, and those of your future children, spouses, and pets! You are a nobody! Wake up and get a life!"

    Ok, we do consider ourselves more important than we actually are but you make the same mistake by placing superhuman powers in the hands of the Man. The thing is that the Man cannot enter your head and even if he could that woudn't help him much in case you're a looney. So the Man _has to_ screen everyone because he simply isn't able to distinguish the resolved ones from the talkers.

    Today I'm a college nut who talks about drawning the capitalist pigs in a bloodbath. Everyone is laughing at me. Tomorrow I find another nut who gives me money to buy me bombs. I blow up a shopping centre. Who could have anticipated that?

    Everyone knows how huge the Internet is. So an uneducated guess would be that it would be difficult and expensive to watch it all. But it would require less manpower than to open everyone's letters in a single city.

    So what we have here is both the necessity to screen the data flow in order to catch at least a small percentage of the active terrorists, for example, and the technology to do it quite efficient and in real time. What government, which can afford it, would miss the opportunity?

    Now comes the scary part. After all the job is done by humans and you happen to be in their perimeter of interest just because you constantly tell jokes about revolutions. Ah, but how would the Man be able to tell how serious you are unless you are scrutinized more closely? So there.
  • You're missing the point. This isn't to defeat Echelon's ability to understand what we're saying. Well, it is, but moreover, it's more like an excercise in our right to fsck with the system. Just a little fun. A little poking of fun at a system that is, undoubtedly, screwing some of us over :)


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • And the CIA and Army can't operate inside the US either. The CIA just does it, and the Army just trains all the pigs. And the NSA does whatever it damn well pleases.
    Oh wait... an act of congress says they can't, oh i guess they don't then... puhlease...
  • I've mirrored Ben's echelon-armor CGI script at []
  • In order to help these key words to go across the internet, feel free to send all emails to my server:
    Come on! Let me feel the wrath of /.
  • by Mr Z ( 6791 ) on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @07:38PM (#1597724) Homepage Journal

    The keyword list is about the right length that you could use it as a sort of base-64 encoding for encrypted mail. (There are more than 64 key words, but several of them group in phrases. You could define a set of 64 symbols pretty easily from this list.) Instead of using PGP-style "ASCII armor", you could use "Echelon armor" on your encrypted emails.

    Now how's that for fun? Anyone care to write a quick-and-dirty perl filter to convert base-64 into echelon-64 and back? :-)

  • The article was ok until I found the word list from "The Anti-Defamation League". Vince Foster? Ollie North? Gun? These people are loonies. Somehow I doubt the NSA has time to pore over messages that contain the word 'gun' or 'drug', much less crackpot militia theories about Vince Foster. And I'm sure the NSA is real worried about the remaning Davidians.

  • The plans to bomb the FBI plaza at 1 this afternoon are still in effect. Using a mix similar to that used in Oklahoma City, we will drive up in a red Mitsubishi Mirage. Our special Ops group of members of the Delta Force, Special Forces, and the 12th Group of the Arkanside Terrorists from the Iran Contras will coordinate strikes on other agency headquarters.

    Remember, the NSA and CIA have screwed us out of our Rights, as stated in the Bill Of rights, the early part of the Constitution, especially Bill 1. It is time for a revolution. Remember what the ATF did at Waco.

    Screw Bill Clinton and Hillary!!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    This will be the biggest waste of anyone's time since watching the OJ trial. Echelon does not filter words. It filters patterns. Search the patents and you will find the keys to the kingdom are not in words that you use, but in words and Patterns! Simply putting CLINTON, CIA, CASTRO, MILITIA is useless. It won't even be picked up. Using sentence structures with those words might however trigger something, if the pattern reaches a high-enough threshold to trigger other, more detailed analysis systems. Anon.
  • by drox ( 18559 ) on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @09:02PM (#1597729)
    Lots of college kids have these ideas. Lots of college kids talk about these ideas. They are discussed so often and openly that they have almost become part of the establishment - a rite of passage for white yuppie larva passing through on their way to productive careers as Cogs in the Machine.

    Exactly. And isn't that what rites of passage are for? Young people need to believe that they are important, that they are a threat to The Establishment, and that The Establishment is a threat to them. If young people didn't have these delusions of subversive grandeur, they'd become so overwhelmed by the pointlessness of it all that they'd just shut down and never become productive little Cogs. Cogs need to fantasize that one day they'll rise up and overthrow the Machine. It's what keeps them going day after day.

    It happens on the right as well as the left. While one side crusades against capitalist exploitation, greed, and The Patriarchy, the other battles moral relativism, secular humanism and Political Correctness.

    And BTW we are, every one of us, beautiful unique snowflakes. And although every snowflake is be beautiful and unique by itself, it looks like every other snowflake and it's a big nuisance to boot when there's countless billions of them on the sidewalk and you have to shovel them.

    We've got a beautiful, unique snowflake's chance in hell of overthrowing the government... unless we work within the system. Play by the system's rules, and use those rules against it. In the U.S., the government is designed to be overthrown every few years. It's called an election, and it works.
  • Just where are all these terrorists, anyway? I keep getting the feeling that "terrorists" are just the proverbial boogymen to give the military-industrial complex something to do after the cold war. If anything, stuff like this only serves to provoke potential terrorists and gives them a reason to make enemies out of us. Of course, the NSA could be catching them all over the place and we'd never know it. I'm sure they could care less whether we knew they were actually accomplishing something or not.
  • The 'Jam Echelon Day' word list is not
    realistic. The NSA could care less about
    the Davidians, or even the FBI for that
    matter. Permit me to suggest a better

    Weapons: Nuclear, VX, Sarin, Stinger,
    AK-47, Anthrax, Back-hoe

    Bad Guys: Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosovic,
    Mad-Dog [Qu|K|Kh][a|i][d|dd]a[f|ff|ph]i,
    Kim Il Sung, Osama Bin Laden, Lucifer,
    Bill Gates

    Good Guys: Bill Clinton, POTUS, Slick, Burger boy,
    Al Gore, Tony Blair, Linus Torvalds

    Verbs: nuke, assasinate, attack, defenestrate,
    hack, mung, frobnicate

    Countries: Cuba, Libya, Syria, North Korea,
    Afganistan, Redmond

    Targets: White house, Congress, Cheyenne Mountain,
    Pentagon, Washington, New York, L.A., that-big-
    area-between-the-coasts, Fry's, Poke-Joe's

    Organizations: NSA, NRO, MI5, Interpol, IRS, BBC,
    B.B. King, Illuminati, FSF, Slashdot, We'd-tell-
  • You can stuff arbitrary words into your message headers with most mailers. They generally won't be seen when the recipient looks at the message. If you are a pine users, add a line similar to the following to your .pinerc:

    customized-hdrs=X-HiEchelon: tempest anthrax fissile ebola revolt CIA pentagon jihad

  • obviously you dont know how elections work. Its the electoral college that matters. Of course, there CAN be an Easter bunny if you would prefer.....
  • by Anonymous Coward
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Meade SEAL Team 6 Honduras PLO NSA terrorist Ft. Meade strategic supercomputer $400 million in gold bullion quiche Honduras BATF colonel Treasury domestic disruption SEAL Team 6 class struggle smuggle M55 M51 Physical Security Division Room 2A0120, OPS 2A building 688-6911(b), 963-3371(s). Security Awareness Division (M56) Field Security Division (M52) Al Amn al-Askari Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI) Binnenlandse Veiligheidsdienst Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti Federalnaia sluzhba besopasnosti GCHQ MI5 Kill the president
  • would be if echelon, after having scanned your email and decided that it was non-threatening, could then go through it and check for good grammar, factual accuracy and persuasiveness. If it's not up to snuff, it sends it back to you for revision.

    Of course, the ultimate message would be something like, "Dear Mr. Smith, the echelon system has looked over your terrorist manifesto, and has decided that you are correct. Please submit a list of people you would like the system to keep tabs on. Fight the power."
  • The NSA circumvents the law by spying on the UK instead, and they in turn spy on us. Then the two agencies exchange info. Did you even bother to read about Echelon?


  • Sounds TERRORIST like a MOSSAD cool idea FBI, but I doubt MILITIA that the Men In Black AK47 really give a hoot REVOLUTION about people e-mailing jokes WACO to co-workers BOMB...

    Sincerely POSSE,

  • (im in the UK, so it doesnt affect me, sorry)

    Of course you are. The latest rumours going round are that
    the NSA uses Echelon for business espionage for US companies
    as well - and they don't care whom they spy on,
    be it friend or enemy. Of course, most European gouvernements
    don't want to touch on this topic, as officially, the US are still
    our allies and friends.
    I believe the "friends" part when it comes to the US people,
    but not when it comes to businesses...
    My opinion is: Get rid of all that stuff.

    My EUR0.02,

  • obviously you dont know how elections work. Its the electoral college that matters.

    The electoral college only applies to the election of the president. It doesn't apply to Congressional ballots. (And of course, Supreme Court justices, which are appointed.)

    The president (executive branch of government) is only one of three branches of government -- the Congress arguably holds more power.

    But do you know where the real power lies? It's in the ballots themselves. How many times do you recall a write-in candidate being elected? You have to be on the ballot to win -- and you're only going to get on the ballot if you pass through several layers of filtering. So in the end, most elections in this country end up as a choice between Candidate A and Candidate B, where A and B are so similar there's not much point to selecting either of them.

    (Sorry, topic drift detected... aborting....)

  • Not a good idea to give mythical beasts real practice.

    Attempted subversion here might just be assistance.

  • Are you sure? I thought it was asymptotic... the size of the key wouldn't make much difference between say a 10 char key versus one twice its size, because once you get into the huge range, the end result would only be slightly more secure.

    Or maybe I've misunderstood, but I though that this was the reason people don't see a reason to encrypt with a 10 char key.
  • better yet, make message contain names of specific ingredients of e.g. anthrax of nuclear weapons. The list you provided could be used by any news agency, but they don't usually include the specifics. I'm sure those names would not be too hard to find out.
  • When Nixon left office did he take all of government corruption with him? Obviously not. Its called the establishment for a reason, there are many players and many followers. From the consensus of the lowest-common-denominator to the consensus among political parties, its there and elections don't seem to erase it. Think of the establishment as the personification of the legislation of tradition, be it right or left. Usually it refers to the right,as government is by its nature conservative, but you can argue that there definatly is a leftist establishment.
  • If you click here [] you'll notice the original address for Deja News was:

    Customer Support-Nuking Dept.
    Deja News Inc.
    9430 Research Blvd.
    Echelon 2, Suite 300
    Austin, Tx. 78759

    This address is about a mile from the Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation [], aka "MCC". MCC's first director was National Security Agency director Bobby Inman [].

    Deja News' location within the Echelon building barely a mile from NSA-associated MCC is simply the result of a concentration of high technology businesses in the Austin area combined with some real estate developer's perverse sense of humor in choosing the name "Echelon" for that particular office building.

    "Some of you look dubious." -- Larry Wall

  • obviously you dont know how elections work. Its the electoral college that matters.

    Actually I do know about the electoral college. I didn't say that elections are perfect - I just said they work. They do. I personally think they'd work a lot better without the electoral college, but that doesn't invalidate them. Compared to the other methods of overthrowing governments, democratic elections (even with the electoral college) are far better for all concerned.
  • they find an actual, encrypted e-mail describing plans to spike the punch at the 2000 presidential ball. They'll think they've hit the jackpot.

    Of course this could simply be a code for something completly different. Sending misleading, but believable, information is a well tried and tested technique.
  • Because that same company manages security (Or, at least they USED to...) at numerous installations that are of import National Security wise. Places like Sandia National Labs, Los Alamos, etc.

    Wackenhut's a large, nationwide security organization, not unlike Pinkerton in size.
  • If their aim is to catch REAL terrorist conversations, it would probably have words like RDX, plutonium, etc. Or obscure nuclear tech. words that would most likely to be used by their targets.

    I wonder if they would trigger if someone were to mention "tube alloys"... Any terrorist organisation would be be using terms like "a full crate of oranges" or even "the stuff".
  • Update:
    I've increased the message size limit on my mirror of the echelon-encoding script
    to 4096 bytes so it should be a little more useful. []
  • Personally, I'd like to know what SF is doing in that list. Does Echelon *really* have a keyword scanner that would pick up *every* message in rec.arts.sf.written? I mean, I have a hard enough time keeping up with it, and I have a massive killfile. Who gets the job of spending 24 hours a day reading SF newsgroups looking for subversive content? And can I apply?

    (The NSA must have fun with BackTo1913, though.)

  • And if the terrorists are semi-bright they
    have a field-day every 'Jam Echelon' day

    Anyway if they are semi bright they will use codes which are either deliberatly misleading. (e.g claim they are going to kill Clinton when they are really after Gates) or which will be ignored by any algorithms intended to catch "subversive" messages.
  • Work WITHIN the system? Give us a break! Nobody believes that anymore, just look at the voter turnout numbers for *any* election. The system works, for the RICH, not for us little guys and gals.

    Expect to see alot of changes soon though.

    Go Anarchy! []

  • Just for shits and giggles... try singing all these words to the tune of "It's the end of the world (as we know it)" by REM. I couldn't stop laughing in my cubical.

    I wonder if even enemies have paranoids?
  • Isn't it the case that by trumpeting your plans to overload Echelon, you're forewarning the operators to 'turn it off' for a while?

    Incidentally, as an Australian, I'm proud to say it was one of our own who let the cat officially out of the bag. We access Echelon as part of the defunct-ish UKUSA treaty. But anyone could have found that out from reading Peter Wright's Spycatcher biography.
  • Promoting the widespread use of crypto is actually one of the expressed goals of this particular publicity stunt.
  • I'm really hoping your intentions are true to the cause, and you aren't just making a database of all the email addresses of /. users that send you mail for the purposes for spam.
  • I can't wait until they finally get quatum encryption working well enough to use, then let's see those NSA and CIA spooks trying to read our mail :)
  • Some people say they wouldn't employ him because he didn't have "credentials." Because he had no "education" or "experience." Some people said he was "disgusting"... and that he "reeked." They said he "makes babies cry" and "frightens small children." They don't like how he would "drink maple syrup straight from the bottle." ;)

  • (im in the UK, so it doesnt affect me, sorry) At least officially, the CIA and NSA are only allowed to deal with foreign 'threats,' so, actually, it would affect you more than it would affect the average US /.er.
  • Slashdotters,

    Please feel free to plagerize this since I borrowed some of it from the article above:-)

    C U T A L O N G D O T T E D L I N E S

    Dear Friends,

    Echelon is the near-mythical worldwide computer spy network that reportedly scans all email, packet traffic, telephone conversations -- and more -- around the world, in an effort to ferret out potential terrorist or enemy communications.

    It is an invasion of our privacy and in an attempt to bring awareness of this issue to the general public the "gag Echelon day" event has been organized. I am merely helping in the effort.

    If the hunch of a loose-knit group of cyber-activists is correct, the words below will trip the keyword recognition filter on a global spy system partly managed by the US National Security Agency. If everyone sends out email containing these words then we might be able to bring the system down or at least slow it for a while.

    Please forward this email to as many people as you know FOR TODAY ONLY!!!! This is not a chain letter. Do not forward it unless today's date is 10-21-1999. For proof that I am not making this up please check out this URL:,1283,31726,00 .html

    Here are the words. I have tried to link them all together in a paragraph of some sort since their system is likely to filter out anything as obvious as a slew of these keywords chained together:

    The FBI and CIA, together with the NSA, IRS, and ATF are government agencies; As are the BATF and the DOD. The MILITIA's are all convinced of the government's involvement in WACO and RUBY RIDGE and have done sick things like the TERRORIST bombing at OKLAHOMA CITY (OKC). If you have a GUN (or HANDGUN), ASSAULT RIFLE(AK47, M16, etc), or a BOMB or EXPLOSIVE (ie. C4) of any sort do not use it in any sort of TERRORISM or DRUG related crime. Note that I do not support DAVID KORESH, the BRANCH DAVIDIAN's, the MOSSAD, or any other group involved in MILITIA or TERRORIST activities. I am merely trying to bring the echelon situation to the attention of our contries leaders (HILLARY CLINTON, BILL CLINTON (lots of nuts are still worried about WHITEWATER), AL GORE, GEORGE BUSH, OLIVER NORTH (he was involved in that IRAN CONTRAS business), VINCE FOSTER (he's dead now), etc). I believe in our CONSTITUTION and the BILL OF RIGHTS, do not allow the government to spy on us. forward this email. There are other keywords but putting them all in seems a bit excesive. It's the number of emails that matter after all!

    Please feel free to not forward this if you do not agree with it. Thanks,
    Christopher M. Eppstein

    I think I lost my work ethic while surfing the web. If you find it, please email it to

  • At first I pretty much liked the idea... but it simply has the problem of wasting our time at all. When you forward a mail to e.g. 40 people, it seems just like a small thing to do.

    If all of these people use an average of 1-2 minutes to be notified of new mail, stop what they're up to, check the mail, wonder a bit about it, delete it, and then continue to go on, we've just wasted about one hour of worktime.

    Multiply this, and think about how much time that has been wasted in total!

    I just recieved a "Let's cheat Echelon!"-mail from somebody I don't know. The address, he had mailed to, was my old e-mail when I worked as a supporter for about 1½ years ago! I've probably mailed him once at that time, but my guess is that he don't know who I am either - he has just mailed to every e-mail-address, he've ever got in his mailreader!

    In total, I guess that I've recieved the mail somewhere between 9 or 10 times (mail from family, friends, colleagues, customers, a few times in different newsgroups).

    Seriously, my best guess is that this effort is doing much more harm on us "ordinary workers", than it would ever do on Echelon. Don't harm us anymore... please?

  • > I keep getting the feeling that "terrorists" are just the proverbial boogymen to
    > give the military-industrial complex something to do after the cold war.

    Now see, I get the feeling that "terrorists" are to the military as "protecting the children" is to the special-interest groups who are looking to censor the internet -- a convenient excuse. The American public, no matter how dazed and hypnotized and not encouraged to think for themselves, still has a few lingering concepts of civil liberties -- if the public as a whole learned of some of the things Our Fine Government pulled off on a regular basis, they would be incensed. So the powers that be need a smokescreen to justify their actions, and what better way to justify those actions than to invent a mystical boogeyman that must be protected against?

    Please note that I am *not* saying that terrorism is not a threat. It is. I just do not believe that the desired end justifies the stated means. The problem is that when rights are forfeited on an "emergency" or "temporary" basis, it is very difficult to get those rights back -- and very easy for the slippery slope to set in. I believe that there are a few lines that should not be crossed, and many civil liberties lie along those lines.

    This is also why I object so much to the dearth of civil liberties in American public schools. We are raising a generation of children who believe that it is acceptable for someone to demand to see their identification, that it is acceptable to have their personal property searched (sometimes on a daily basis), that it is acceptable for those in authority to detain and question them whenever they appear to be doing something "suspicious". This is breeding a generation of people who will believe that it is acceptable for the NSA to monitor their communications, that it is acceptable for the police to detain and search them at any time, that it is acceptable for anyone in authority to walk into their houses at any time to search for drugs or guns or terrorist plans. That idea scares the crap out of me, and I don't even consider myself all that passionate a civil libertarian.

    Insert Benjamin Franklin quote about liberties and temporary safety; I'm sure you all know it by now. But perhaps Bruce Cockburn fits better here: "'It'll all go back to normal if we put our nation first' -- but the trouble with normal is that it always gets worse."

    Hmm. I think I need more coffee.
  • So...

    How many people here think Jane's is going to write an article based on the comments here?

  • I come from the occupied part of Ireland. I do not want to aid the occupation forces in doing their job better, being a pacifist myself I do not want to aid gun men on either side. The occupying forces hold the strong arm in weapons, equipment and armed men. Intelligence and security in terms of the resistance forces is less technical , though it has 800 years of R&D behind it and seems pretty effective.

    What with small active service units, severe informer penalties, and 'no go' areas for would be undercover infiltrators.

    Largely due to intelligence difficulties this is a war that cannot be won on the battlefield (fortunately).

    The occupying forces may be inept but I do not want them to be any better.
  • I guess they must use a "snooper-computer" to handle all that data. Too bad the general public doesnt have a better way to keep an eye on the government like they do us.....
  • No doubt there are some people that the government is watching, even today. These are people who are coordinating real revolutions, underground sects, militarized religious organizations that dream of dropping acid into the water supply someday. Political enemies of the Republicrats, Black Panthers, whatever. Not slashdot readers.

    Real revoulutions??? Do you think they're possible? Real revolutions need to change fundamentally the power relations within society, not just the people who happen to be sitting in the various seats of power within the structure. WHen has this ever happened? How is it that the relations of power replicate themselves? Grand social revolution is a pipe-dream. So what can we do? Resist! The Man, as it's being called, likes to marginalize but accept a certaqin social level of subversive ideas. Because it's accepted, but marginalized in newsgroups and universities, subversive thinking becomes neutered. On the other hand, only by operating from within the margins and perpetually engaging in creating localized sites of resistance can we hope to effect any kind of change or challenge to the system. In this way, we can all be a danger (at least theoretically -- most people don't have the will to adopt constant struggle).

    In short, slashdot readers can be a danger. No, they're not going to effect a large scale revolution, but those groups that are trying are far less significant to the monitors of society than those who can create effective resistance. The criminal justice arm of things can handle bomb-maker and terrorists (albeit ineffectively). Anyway, what is a slashdot reader? Someone who does nothing else with her life? Right.

    So yeah, for what it's worth, append some nasty keywords to your emails today. It'd be really funny if it did something. Better, yet, get used to trying to throw a wrench in the gears whenever you can.

  • they put out the idea to load test
    the machines.

    don't fall for it, don't use email today!
  • I prefer Operation Mindfuck [], myself...fnord.
  • MindStalker, ol' buddy, you've been outed. You are definitely a computer. :) (So much for the Turing award, eh?)

    Rev. Dr. Xenophon Fenderson, the Carbon(d)ated, KSC, DEATH, SubGenius, mhm21x16
  • Recently there was a wordlist in 2600 that is used for a program that supposedly helped parents figure out what thier kids were doing on the internet. It would records any instance of the word so that the parents could read it over later, I guess that was the was a huge list of crazy words.. and they even had to account for misspelins (faggot vs fagit vs fagget). it was last quarters issue, so I'm not sure if it's still around..
  • O.K., I agree with most of what you have to say, though I still don't like the idea of people eavesdropping on my private conversations. I know enough about human nature, and about government employee nature in particular, to know that some people will abuse the ability to snoop on your mail, and either single you out for spying because of an old personal grudge or look for racy content and read your love letters, or do similarly unauthorized and nasty things. I also know that the government spies on activists-- look at Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Anyway, I want to take issue with your portrayal of the Black Panthers. They are a nationally co-ordinated community action group that happens to advocate carrying guns for self-defense--nothing more. They certainly don't belong in the same category as "militarized religious organizations that dream of dropping acid into the water supply someday". I don't doubt that the government spies on them still, and we all know how the police basically assassinated Huey with no provocation. But they are not fanatics, no matter some reactionaries might want you to believe.
    Beer recipe: free! #Source
    Cold pints: $2 #Product

  • I've seen posts on /. before about Echelon. It is hard for me to imagine that a system as complex as Echelon can actually function, or even exist. To me this seems like the geeks version of "Send this e-mail to as many people you know and you'll get free clothing..." or one of the other hundred bogus e-mail floating around.
    If someone knows of a place I can find real information about this let me know. Otherwise this seems like we(America) don't have anyone else in the world to pick on except ourselves.
  • by Falsch Freiheit ( 7780 ) <[freiheit] [at] []> on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @10:06PM (#1597803) Homepage
    This is being run by Hacktivism [] and the URL with all the relevant details for participating is [].

    Here's a sample from their random Echelon jammer message generator []:

    From: Colonel Robert Worley, 50th Operations Group Commander, USAF

    To: Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency

    Ussama bin Laden made a broadcast this morning. We just got translation back and they're claiming that they will get agents to insert malicious code in year 2000 fixes Waco next week Additionally, The Commander in the 850th Communications Squadron passed on some new information. Theyve no choice other than to buy some documents from the JNTF contact when she's in Auckland tomorrow. Further to that, We're going to inflict minimal casualties on DoD personnel at London just before changeover to 2000. Finally, If we're to succed in halting the INFOSEC community, theres no better time than now to drive a tanker full of fertiliser and diesel across the border from Mexico then fly out to Manchester next week
  • To really freak them out, send mail that's encrypted with a 40-bit key. I'd hazard a guess that the NSA can pretty much break a 40-bit key instantaneously now, so imagine their surprise when, while they're wading through all this hack echelon crud, they find an actual, encrypted e-mail describing plans to spike the punch at the 2000 presidential ball. They'll think they've hit the jackpot. Better yet, they'll think you actually believe that 40-bit is secure!
  • by dr ( 93364 ) on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @07:53PM (#1597831) Homepage
    I found the list of keywords in the Wired News article [] about this somewhat bizarre (among other things). The word which initially caught my attention was the would militia which has a completely different meaning here in Canada than it does down south in the US. Up here, the Militia is the common name for the Primary Army Reserves (in which I'm a soldier) dating back to the days of adhoc armies made up of a few professionals leading a rabble of locals with rifles. Anyway, I digress.

    I find it so bizarre that whomever is running this Echelon program would waste time, money, hard drive space (I started to try to calculate the amount of disk space required but got distracted by a beer and it got too complex), etc... tracking email because of key words, especially when words can vary so much based on context, location, etc... And how likely is it that these "bad guys with guns" would do all of their master planning over email? Personally I think these guys would be too busy using what little money they have buying up guns and explosives and stuff rather than buying computers so they could ICQ their ideas back and forth.

    Instead, I think the wasted time and resources would be better spent employing a national gun/rifle/rocket launcher registration system. Then build an expert-system which monitors these registrations looking for "pecularities," much like the system that Visa uses to check for abnormal purchases.

    No I'm not trying to start a gun control flame war, I'm simply expressing my complete and utter disbelief that an Echelon system could exist. You Americans are funny that way; but we still like ya. :)

  • I don't know, computers generally don't get lazy. If you noticed my sentence structure got worse and worse as I went down that list. But then again, maby I was programmed to get lazy. But honestly, I think AI is much better preformed if it didn't have our faults.
  • by jafac ( 1449 )
    "Jam Echelon Day" is actually a secret NSA plot to do some load-testing on a recent hardware upgrade.

    I wish I had a nickel for every time someone said "Information wants to be free".
  • You may be right about "subversion" among college students being expected and traditional. I think the amount of attention paid you depends greatly on the amount of effectiveness the powers that be perceive. I know that back in the 60's and 70's it was quite real that members of the SDS would have files with the FBI. But the early civil rights movement and the Vietnam war with draft were more intense issues perhaps, and Hoover's FBI was different.

    I agree this is not the target of Echelon (if it exists.) What I've read on it suggests that the target, if any, is commercial espionage. Do you think that it wouldn't be advantageous, say, to do keyword searches on a Japanese or European company's e-mail for what they're working on, and possible difficulties and solutions? To a greater and greater degree war is about economics these days.
  • They've got to be well beyond this point now. Wouldn't surprise me if their programs can grade on content and work up a psych profile if they think you're worth looking at (Along with your credit history, dental records, and alien abduction anal probe report.)

    If you really want to make them sit up and take notice, encrypt all your stuff with 4096. It takes them at least 15 seconds to crack that, and they HATE that.

  • by Get Behind the Mule ( 61986 ) on Thursday October 21, 1999 @12:57AM (#1597844)
    I know that back in the 60's and 70's it was quite real that members of the SDS would have files with the FBI. But the early civil rights movement and the Vietnam war with draft were more intense issues perhaps, and Hoover's FBI was different.

    My father attended Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, OH in the early 60's, and organized a campus group to fight the in loco parentis rules that were in effect at the time. They had a "demerit" system for misbehaving students. You got twenty demerits, say, if you weren't in your dorm room with your pajamas on and under the bedcovers with your slippers next to the bed at 11:00 PM. There were people who went into every room to check up. If you got too many demerits, you had to spend a Saturday afternoon cleaning up the quad or something.

    So my dad and a few other people campaigned to put an end to all this, and the authorities flipped. Especially after he started publically speaking out in favor of people like Martin Luther King. They sent letters to the parents of the students involved, saying "Dear Mr. & Mrs. Soandso, your son or daughter has joined a Communist-affiliated organization."

    Back in the days of Hoover, the TLA's probably really did think they could keep files on every would-be radical, but they probably don't waste their time with it any more.
  • by breser ( 16790 ) on Thursday October 21, 1999 @01:09AM (#1597851) Homepage
    I must have been crazy but I did it. I put it up, there's a copy of the code that runs it and a CGI that lets you play with it with small things.

    You can enjoy at [].

    Have fun, but please don't kill my server. If the CGI is too big of a problem I'll have to take it down.

  • by techt ( 87303 ) on Thursday October 21, 1999 @01:51AM (#1597856)
    Eschelon doesn't use a keyword search, instead it works like this. Eschelon does not use a dictionary search, but instead searches based on a very elegant but simple method which utilizes the frequency of occurances of unique strings of characters. Also check out this link to the []NSA on their searching technology [].

    Jam Eschelon day is a really good idea, but using keywords is the wrong way to go about it. Instead, a story generator which generates subversive letters would be better.

    (Thanks to Hacker News Network [] for the links.)
  • by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <> on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @08:04PM (#1597859) Journal
    so I say we raid the FBI and CIA hopefully the NSA won't catch us and send the IRS after us with the ATF and BATF using half the budget of the DOD that was mostly waisted on WACO. We will meet at RUBY RIDGE while we plan to drive to OKC OKLAHOMA CITY and meet with the local MILITIA in order to trade GUN for HANDGUN. Hopfully the MILGOV will meet us there with fruit and cake. ASSAULTs on our freedom to write drivel like this RIFLE me into a TERRORISM state. BOMB, I mean damn, that sucks. Gonna have to go find some good DRUGs in order to get over this HORIUCHI KORESH.
    DAVIDIAN wow, he was a nice guy, strange name though, but what did you think about KAHL and his POSSE of COMITATUS. BTW the other day, I ran into RANDY WEAVER who said he was really sick and tired of VICKIE WEAVER and is going to send the SPECIAL FORCES out on her ass. LINDA THOMPSON didn't think that was such a hot idea though, and said that the SPECIAL OPERATIONS GROUP would do a much cleaner job. SOGgy wet diapers in my pants SOFa btich. I'm starting to get bored with the DELTA FORCE who thinks they can constintly subvert the CONSTITUTION, and BILL OF RIGHTS. WHITEWATER, what whitewater, what happend to the good old days when everyones water was a nice brown. POM PARK sat ON METER ARKANSIDE and said that his IRAN CONTRAS was giving him a pain in the OLIVER NORTH. VINCE FOSTER said I should really stop writing this but he PROMISed that MOSSAD from the NASA would come with his MI5 and blow the ONI out of its CID. AK47 more things to gp. So where's my only M16 is it in the C4 in MALCOLM X's pants. she REVOLUTIONs at CHEROKEE sometimes HILLARY knows. BILL CLINTON and GORE for 2000 GEORGE BUSH's with WACKENHUT hammers TERRORISTing the TASK FORCE of 160 SPECIAL OPS from the 12TH GROUP or was that the 5TH GROUP
    of SF.

  • by konstant ( 63560 ) on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @08:09PM (#1597863)
    Let me first say this is a very funny joke to play on the NSA if they indeed are still running the Echelon program. I can imagine them drawing straws to find out who'll be the poor schmoe hitting the reboot button all day long on Jam Echelon day...

    But in response to some of the alarmist posts I saw in the old, archived Echelon discussion, may I just remark "The Man does not care about you! You are not interesting to the Man! The Man consider the lint on his Armani suit to be more important than your entire existence, the existence of your parents, and those of your future children, spouses, and pets! You are a nobody! Wake up and get a life!"

    While in college I hung out with a pretty leftist crowd. Lots of megaphone demagoguery on the quad about starving babies in Iraq, etc, etc. Well, okay, let's just be frank and say quite a few of my acquaintances were just polishing their manifestos for the day when the socialist revolution happened and they would be called upon to lead their brave comrades into a People's Utopia. Not that I didn't largely agree with them, but they were definitely nuts.

    Anyway, these people were obsessed with the notion that the FBI/CIA/NSA/Shadowy NWO/paranoid three-letter-acronym(TLA) du-jour was spying on them. They had read more biographies of Dr. Spock and Mumia Abu Jamal than was quite good for them, and since those activists were their heros, they were convinced that the Powers That Be would treat them as shady characters worthy of a File in the Black Room. Frequently I would overhear these people in their little cells talking in hushed but excited voices about a "friend-of-a-friend" who had gone to CIA headquarters and demanded his file, "and it was verrrry interesting..."

    (Aside: when they set up the FOIA over the web, I actually sent in a request to the CIA to pull references to my name. After several pieces of correspondence taped shut with duct tape, they formally declared they did not know who the hell I was and would I please stop sending them letters?)

    Now you see, the CIA/FBI/NSA simply has better things to do than track every punk college student who thinks Castro's Cuba would probably be a sea of golden grain/ring of frolicking workers/god's daisy chain if only the nasty US government would stop trying to sanction it out of existence. Lots of college kids have these ideas. Lots of college kids talk about these ideas. They are discussed so often and openly that they have almost become part of the establishment - a rite of passage for white yuppie larva passing through on their way to productive careers as Cogs in the Machine. Why would the CIA give a fuck if yet one more kerchief-bedecked hashhead had stumbled upon the notion that, whoah, we're like only ciphers in this like vast capitalist machine!

    Similarly, why on earth would the NSA give a rat's ass about anything you have to think or say? The simple, undeniable fact is that you and I are totally irrelevant. As they go around chanting in Fight Club "I am not special. I am not a beautiful unique snowflake." Damn right we aren't. We couldn't destabilize this country if you tried. What would we do? Put pr0n up on all the major homepages of the information infrastructure?

    No doubt there are some people that the government is watching, even today. These are people who are coordinating real revolutions, underground sects, militarized religious organizations that dream of dropping acid into the water supply someday. Political enemies of the Republicrats, Black Panthers, whatever. Not slashdot readers.

    Let's repeat that. Not slashdot readers. We are irrelevant in the grand powergames of nations. Sorry for the depressing news. I can already hear some of you squawking "Speak for yourself! You have no idea of the dark byways I travel! I am unique! I am dangerous! I am special! I am unlike the common man!"

    Ok, sure. Maybe you are. Just remember the quote: "The common man believes he isn't."

    Moderation bombs away!
  • Maybe what you say is true in the US (though I doubt it) but it's certainly not true in the UK. It was leaked several years ago that the UK domestic secret services have a file on anyone and everyone who has shown signs of potentially belonging to a "counter-culture". This includes the most mundane behaviour - for example everyone who has ever owned a motorcycle is included.

    Unfortunately because of the political apathy of the British and our lack of a tradition of constitutional rights there was no uproar.

    It might interest you to know that this type of activity isn't confined to the public sector either. Up until a few years ago there was a semi-secret private organisation in the UK called "the Economic League" which kept records of a similar nature on a phenomenal number of people. They would scour local papers and petitions which had been filed for the names of anyone who had ever dared to stick their head up over the parapet. They then sold this information to anyone who would pay. It is well known that the human resources departments of large corporations such as the major banks would routinely vet any job applicant against these files.

    The League, whose records were all on paper and thus fell outside the remit of the UK Data Protection Act, apparently closed their offices a few years ago, around the time that the Internet started to take off. Anyone see anything fishy about that?

    It may be that they realised their activities would no longer be tolerated. On the other hand it's just as possible that they went underground or moved overseas, in order to continue their business using the new technology and unmolested by tiresome laws about protecting private information.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • Are you sure? I thought it was asymptotic... the size of the key wouldn't make much difference between say a 10 char key versus one twice its size, because once you get into the huge range, the end result would only be slightly more secure.
    There are two major forms of encryption currently in use - one is Public key (or asymmetric) encryption, the other classic(or Symmetric). The types differ in the number of keys - PK uses a different key to encrypt than to decrypt - you can give the encryption key to whoever you chose, or even post it to the web, and only your decryption key can extract the message again.
    Creating a copy of the decryption key, even given the Encryption key, involves solving a "hard" mathematical problem - usually factoring a large number into two primes, or a similar problem in the area of discrete logs. This is difficult, computationally,but doesn't increase as a strict multiple - each five or six extra binary digits doubles the time taken to crack one key, on the average - current estimates are that 1024 bit keys are unbreakable in any realistic time (yes, a major government agency may be able to break *one* a year, if their computer technology is vastly greater than ours, and they devote their entire budget to it. Experts in cryptography believe even one a year is unrealistic, and even one a *century* might be an understatement, but suggest you use 2048 bit keys anyhow :+)
    Symmetric encryption uses the same key to decrypt as encrypt, and if it is well designed, the only attack is to try each possible key, one after the other. for 56bit DES, this takes about three days (on the average) for even a modest-sized company; but in this case, adding a single bit to the length DOES double the time taken, so a 57 bit key would take six days, a 58 would take twelve and so forth. The most common length of key in use for symmetric encryption is 128 bits - again, it is barely possible that a major government could break one by brute force *per year* but I doubt I am important enough to be that one :+)

    Passwords are a different thing again, and often much easier to crack. A "dictionary attack" is an attempt to try passphrases from a list to see if a real word or two have been used as a password - this works more often than you would expect, as people tend to use normal, english words - not a good idea.

    One point that is worth remembering though is that many UNIX based systems limit you to a maximum password length of only eight characters - 56 bits .... and your key is therefore limited similarly.

    PGP is probably the best known example of dedicated, unbreakable encryption. You may wish to check it out, or the Gnu varient Gnu Privacy Guard - they both use the same basic file formats and methods, and for a decent key size, unrealistic to break into by pure cryptography - but if you are paranoid, they are relatively easy to break if they break into your house and modify the copy installed on your PC :+)

  • Y'see, it's not just the fact that they could be monitoring for "subversive" keywords that's the problem. We know Echelon exists, there are several European Commission reports (Development of Surveillance Technology and the Risk of Abuse of Economic Information -- published this year []) and it highlights a good deal more areas of concern than simply monitoring the local Trots... From the summary of the above report...

    "Key findings concerning the state of the art in Comint include :
    • Comprehensive systems exist to access, intercept and process every important modern form of communications, with few exceptions (section 2, technical annexe);
    • Contrary to reports in the press, effective "word spotting" search systems automatically to select telephone calls of intelligence interest are not yet available, despite 30 years of research. However, speaker recognition systems - in effect, "voiceprints" - have been developed and are deployed to recognise the speech of targeted individuals making international telephone calls;
    • Recent diplomatic initiatives by the United States government seeking European agreement to the "key escrow" system of cryptography masked intelligence collection requirements, and formed part of a long-term program which has undermined and continues to undermine the communications privacy of non-US nationals, including European governments, companies and citizens;
    • There is wide-ranging evidence indicating that major governments are routinely utilising communications intelligence to provide commercial advantage to companies and trade."

    These are just the major findings condensed, all the details and the evidence have been published in that report. In an earlier report, An Appraisal of the Technologies of Political Control [], we get the very welcome conclusion:

    "If even half of these allegations are true then the European Parliament must act to ensure that such powerful surveillance systems operate to a more democratic consensus now that the Cold War has ended. Clearly, the Overseas policies of European Union Member States are not always congruent with those of the USA and in commercial terms, espionage is espionage. No proper Authority in the USA would allow a similar EU spy network to operate from American soil without strict limitations, if at all. Following full discussion on the implications of the operations of these networks, the European Parliament is advised to set up appropriate independent audit and oversight procedures and that any effort to outlaw encryption by EU citizens should be denied until and unless such democratic and accountable systems are in place, if at all."

    It's pretty much certain that ECHELON exists, (the 1999 report contains interesting technical details and speculation, for those interested) and it's doing more than just monitoring those seeking the downfall of global capitalism.

    Given that they have these capabilities, and that they are well known for paranoia, they'll more than likely be using these things to "ensure national security isn't breached". So, if you send round mail containing made up stuff about, say, TEMPEST, bacterial cultures, etc etc, they'll probably have filters to detect those signatures; too many keywords will strain the system AND its operators who have to check its output. So go ahead and jam up the bugger :-)

  • By the way, when I first submitted the above, I was returned to the Preview, with the message "Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted." I can only assume this means Taco has achieves Strong AI and his code knows how lame it is.

    Seriously, this is not a "troll"; I have the deepest respect and appreciation for the work that has been done to create Slashdot, but right now I'm kind of pissed about having a perfectly good post censored for no reason. This is not offtopic, either; it's partly a meta-comment, but it also adds a clarification and draws an interesting parallel.

    I cut the two blocks of "mystery text" into 40-character lines instead of giving them each as one big long word, and it accepted it. Presumably the filter detected words over some cutoff length and concluded that I was one of those jackasses who make huge garbage posts to waste bandwidth and vertical space. It's a noble goal, but the implementation is faulty. In my opinion, false positives are worse than false negatives in something like this, and this seems pretty vulnerable to both.

    Anyway, I broke them up, with the result that the post now takes about 50% more vertical space than it would have, and anyone interested in my cryptographic challenge might be thrown on a wild goose chase by the line lengths. Let me assure you, the lengths are irrelevant; the original contained no whitespace at all.

    Something else that struck me: how weird is it that, on a story about the "spooks" scanning people's communications, I should discover that Slashdot itself has a mechanism that scans the text of comments for certain undesirable content before allowing them to be posted? Not to mention that I was wrongly victimized by it, in sort of the way that we're all afraid of having happen for real. Could it be? Is Rob... one of Them?

    David Gould
  • Please give a reference for the British voice scanner you mention. I don't think such a thing would have been possible in the sixties.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 20, 1999 @08:35PM (#1597892)
    I looked up [] Many things strike me as sinister about them....

    1) They are based in Canada, one of the Echelon countries.

    2) They promise free internet access. An obvious ploy to sucker in naive Canadians...

    3) Their main page has animation of 3 people marching in line, with the first one being blue (an obvious ref. to IBM) and the last one being red (take a guess).

    4) They use devious techniques to trap you into sending them your subversive ideas. For instance, at the bottom of their news [] page, they innocently ask you to "send us your ideas at, and we'll include information and content that you want to see each month.".
    Yeah right.

    Click on the "about" page and it says - "What an amazing time to be alive!" That's a strange statement....

    In short, the whole thing is fishy. And did you notice they didn't use the standard Canadian end-of-sentence indicator, eh?

    Oh, and at, check out the page's source has a weird arrangement of unnecessary blockquotes. Very odd.

    ---- (Hint for the clueless - don't reply pointing out inconsistencies in my theory. If you can't get it, you won't.)
  • Aside: when they set up the FOIA over the web, I actually sent in a request to the CIA to pull references to my name. After several pieces of correspondence taped shut with duct tape, they formally declared they did not know who the hell I was and would I please stop sending them letters?

    Sure. That's what they told you. :-)

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.