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(Most Americans take it for granted that the end of the cold war did not put U.S. intelligence agencies out of business; they have found other secrets to chase and other keyholes to peep through. Just what that meant, however, was a mystery-especially when it turned out that the spooks had failed to predict India's recent nuclear tests. Coincidentally, a study by the European Parliament turned up an answer. The top-secret Echelon network, run by the U.S. National Security Agency in cooperation with four English-speaking countries, uses satellites and super-computers to intercept, sift, and eavesdrop on most of the world's telephone, e-mail, and fax communications. This discovery, first reported in Europe in Milan's newsmagazine "II Mondo," has raised an outcry on the continent over civil liberties violations and the use of espionage to give "Anglo-Saxon" corporate interests an economic advantage.)
It is called UKUSA, and it is the most exclusive club in the world. Its members are five English-speaking countries: the United States (top of the class and leader of the pack), Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Its purpose is electronic espionage, and its principal resource is called Echelon, a network of highly sophisticated spy satellites, interception bases on the ground, and super-computers capable of analyzing vast quantities of intercepted messages, phone conversations, faxes, and electronic-mail messages. The target of this satellite-cum-electronic Big Brother is the entire world's telecommunications.
It is legitimate to ask whether this description of a massive global surveillance system might not stem from paranoia of Orwellian proportions. But the existence, the pervasiveness, and the power of this system have been confirmed by a report prepared early this year for the Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA), a department of the European Parliament's General Research Directorate.
According to this report, every phone call, every fax, and every email message, whether in code or otherwise, can be intercepted, selected, decoded, and inserted into an extremely powerful computerized database shared by the five countries involved. In describing this mechanism, the report, "An Assessment of Technologies for Political Control," states categorically: "Throughout Europe all phone calls, faxes, and e-mail messages are regularly intercepted, and from the British strategic center of Menwith Hill any information of interest is sent to the headquarters of the [U.S.] National Security Agency (NSA)."
The Very Low Frequency (VLF) antennas are large spider webs of wire supported in a top hat arrangement. The centre tower ‘Tower Zero’, rises to a height of 387.9 metres. The other towers are spread out in two concentric rings around Tower Zero; the towers of the inner ring are 364 metres high while those of the outer ring are 304 metres high. Buried in the ground beneath the antenna array is 386 kilometres of bare copper ground mat.
On 7 October 2008, Qantas Flight 72 made an emergency landing at Learmonth airport near the town of Exmouth, Western Australia following an inflight accident featuring a pair of sudden uncommanded pitch-down manoeuvres that resulted in serious injuries to many of the occupants. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) identified in a preliminary report that a fault occurred within the Number 1 Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU) and is the "likely origin of the event". The ADIRU — one of three such devices on the aircraft — began to supply incorrect data to the other aircraft systems. The ATSB's continuing accident investigation will include assessment of speculation that possible interference from Harold E. Holt facility or passenger personal electronic devices could have been involved, although based on initial analysis, the Bureau believes these are unlikely to have been of any impact.
On 27 December 2008, another aircraft, Qantas Flight 71, also had a malfunction in its ADIRU. The incident again fuelled media speculation regarding the significance of the Harold E. Holt facility, with the Australian and International Pilots Association calling for commercial aircraft to be barred from the area as a precaution until the events are better understood, while the manager of the facility has claimed that it is "highly, highly unlikely" that any interference has been caused