August 12, 1988: The first media report appears about Echelon, a high-tech global electronic surveillance network between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Governments deny that Echelon exists, but whistleblowers expose it. They claim it's being abused in many ways, including to spy on politicians domestically. Echelon is capable of "near total interception of international commercial and satellite communications," including taps into transoceanic cables, but it is "impossible for analysts to listen to all but a small fraction of the billions of telephone calls, and other signals which might contain 'significant' information." [New Statesman, 8/12/88] Understanding the information surveillance capabilities of Echelon is vital to determining what should have been known about 9/11.
November 3, 1999: The head of Australia's security services admits that the Echelon global surveillance system exists (see August 12, 1988); the US still denies its existence. The BBC describes Echelon's power as "astounding," and elaborates: "Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism." [BBC, 11/3/99]
February 23, 2000: European Parliament hearings over Echelon, the global surveillance network, draw banner headlines across Europe. A report prepared for the European Parliament not only confirms that Echelon exists, but has found that Echelon had twice helped US companies gain an advantage over Europeans. The EU sets up a commission to determine if action should be taken against Britain for security breaches. [New York Times, 2/24/00] The US has denied and continues to deny the very existence of Echelon. But it exists, as Echelon partners Britain and Australia (see November 3, 1999) now admit. [BBC, 5/29/01]