Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING EVERYONE
By Hillel Cohen
Ever get the feeling that someone's watching you? Better get
used to it.
Because the U.S. government is spending billions of dollars and
getting ready to spend billions more not only to watch you, but
to read your mail and listen to your phone calls.
Washington may have no reason to focus on you right now, so just
in case, it's making preparations to snoop on everyone. This
snooping didn't just start, but now the so-called information
revolution has prompted the government to launch a snooping
In suburban Virginia, just a 20-minute drive from Washington, one
of the biggest construction projects in the country has turned
out to be the new housing complex for a secret government agency.
This agency is so secret that for over 30 years even its name was
Most people know that both the Pentagon and the CIA's giant
Langley, Va., headquarters occupy substantial pieces of suburban
Virginia real estate to coordinate their dirty work. Now the
National Reconnaissance Office, controlled jointly by the
Pentagon and the CIA, has come to light.
Until two years ago, the NRO itself was a secret to members of
Congress. The $350-million building was supposedly unknown to
members of the Senate Intelligence Committees--who are supposed
to monitor these things--and even President Bill Clinton.
THE NRO'S ROLE
The NRO is in charge of the many U.S. secret reconnaissance
satellites. They photograph, eavesdrop and otherwise spy on
people, places and things in every country of the world.
The New York Times estimates the NRO budget--also a secret--at
about $6 billion. That's three times the entire State Department
The combined budgets of the alphabet soup of U.S. "intelligence"
agencies--CIA, NSA, DIA, NRO, etc.--may be about $28 billion but
the exact amounts are hidden in the Pentagon budget.
The Clinton administration opposed a bill that would have made
these budgets public. The bill was defeated.
The $28-billion figure doesn't cover domestic spying operations
carried out by the FBI and the various state and local police
agencies. Nor does it include private corporate concerns engaged
in industrial espionage and surveillance of workers.
TV AND CABLE SPYING
While the NRO building is now in the spotlight, another, quieter
debate is going on.
The FBI and the Clinton administration have introduced a bill in
Congress to require the telephone and cable television companies
to change their networks to make it easier for the government to
wire-tap or trace any call now or in the future.
The administration wants to allocate $500 million to give to
these monopolies to make the technical changes.
Communications companies like AT&T oppose the bill. They are
afraid that $500 million is only just enough to trace or tap
calls made via call-forwarding.
Cable television may be targeted in the same bill; home shopping
and other two-way, interactive services may soon be available
through cable and the FBI wants access to that as well.
Electronic mail and online computer services may be also be
This is related to another controversy. This one is between the
National Security Agency, which spies on domestic and
international communications, and the computer industry.
The NSA is insisting that all computers use a so-called "clipper
chip" that would allow the government to have an electronic
master key to break any code and spy on any communication. The
NSA wants a law to force the computer industry to use "clipper,"
not only in the U.S. but in all computers sold overseas.
Then there is private spying. A survey of 301 U.S. businesses,
recently reported by the United Nations International Labor
Organization found that as many as 20 million workers in the U.S.
are electronically monitored on the job. According to the
report, companies search employee electronic mail, network mail
and voice mail.
This doesn't even count other electronic surveillance of work
performance--such as secretly counting key strokes of computer
operators, listening in on the conversations of telephone and
telemarketing workers, and placing hidden video cameras in the
This gigantic spying apparatus suggests that every worker, even
every person, is under suspicion. The government and the
corporate bosses must realize that they are not so popular--
so they spend billions to keep an eye on the population.
(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted
if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World,
55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011; via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)