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Big Brother is listening (transcript)


Reporter : Ross Coulthart

ROSS COULTHART, REPORTER: Far above in the empty vacuum of space, the scientists will tell you, nothing can be heard. But in fact Australia is hearing a lot from the void 36,000km above the earth. We are part of the world's most sophisticated spy network. A member of the planet's most exclusive club - UKUSA - a secret alliance that began in the embers of World War II. As you'll see today, that alliance has spawned a worrying grandchild. It is known as Echelon.
MIKE FROST, FORMER CANADIAN CSE SPY: Echelon is a total complete invasion of an individual's privacy.
NICKY HAGER, NZ AUTHOR & RESEARCHER: One of the defining features of the Echelon system is that it's a move away from what is the most effective way to spy on our enemies to a system which is the most effective way of spying on everyone.

REPORTER: Have you ever had cause to fear that you've not been told the full story about an intelligence operation?

REPORTER: We can trust them?
BLACK: I am convinced we can trust them.

REPORTER: Imagine a technology intercepting anyone who is communicating via a satellite, simultaneously scanning for specific numbers and keywords - even able to recognise your voice. Imagine that same technology scanning not just phone calls but all your email messages, faxes, banking transactions, any form of data communication via satellite. That's Echelon. Australia has been listening in for years of course along with the United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand - the UKUSA alliance. But the fine-tuning of this system over the last 10 years - known by its original codeword Echelon - has now expanded that surveillance technology to the private communications of everyone on the planet.

REPORTER: This is the headquarters of Australia's end of the UKUSA spy alliance: the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) in Canberra. Conceived in the cold war, the DSD also plays host to American spies - staff from the US National Security Agency are closely involved in the spying from here and other Australian facilities. There's no denying that in these increasingly unstable times among several of our near neighbours, DSD's ability to gather good intelligence is very important to Australia's national security. But are the checks on this awesomely powerful arm of government sufficient? Today, for the first time, DSD reveals some of the controls it has in place to allow it to intercept the private communications of Australian citizens. And what controls are there on the Americans who spy with DSD on our soil? With the end of the cold war, the new spying game is commercial intelligence - a battle where there are no allies. And yet as you'll see today the bulk of the Echelon-system intelligence that the Americans get from Australia is squirted back to America automatically without scrutiny by Australian eyes.

REPORTER: The notion of checks and balances to counter potential abuses of power is a fundamental one to any democracy. But the activities of the DSD are shielded by law from the scrutiny of the Privacy Commissioner, the Freedom of Information Act, the archives act and the human rights and equal opportunities commissioner. There is little parliamentary oversight, if any, of DSD's operations - most inquiries are met with a blanket refusal to comment on matters of national security. Australia's watchdog on DSD is IGIS - the Inspector-general of Intelligence and Security. A role held by a former senior member of the prime minister's office, Bill Blick. Armed with the powers of a royal commission, he enjoys unfettered access to any secret file and any DSD staff member.

REPORTER: Are you confident that with your oversight powers you've got a good enough relationship with DSD staff that if there was impropriety or illegality going on inside DSD you'd find out about it?
BILL BLICK, IGIS: I am very confident of that and furthermore I think that the atmosphere within DSD is such that if there were any matter of that sort going on in the organisation it would be brought to attention at appropriate levels within the organisation by the staff concerned. Because the whole of the organisation is imbued with the need to abide by the principles of legality and propriety.

REPORTER: But as you'll see today, there are concerns even inside DSD that its intrusive surveillance powers are not restrained by an act of parliament. The operational powers of DSD are tasked by a directive of government politicians in cabinet...and neither you nor I will ever be allowed to know what those operations are.
BLICK: When you get to the questions of operational activities of DSD there are national security implications and obviously I can't talk about the operations in detail.

REPORTER: Five years ago, a new satellite was lifted into orbit from French Guyana and manoeuvred into position far out in space above the equator north of New Zealand above Kiribati. It was one of a new generation of 20 intelsat communications satellites that now straddle the equator, carrying the planet's satellite-borne phone calls, faxes, emails and telexes. Meanwhile across the Tasman, a brand new satellite facility had sprung up in farming country near Blenheim in the South Island of New Zealand. What little that was said about it led the public and the media to believe that Waihopai was monitoring military communications. But a persistent researcher called Nicky Hager sneaked into this base with a camera one night two years ago and proved them all wrong.

REPORTER: Not only did Hager prove Waihopai is actually listening in to any private communications going through the intelsat satellite, he also noticed something very strange about this top-secret New Zealand spy base. It was practically deserted.
NICKY HAGER: The strongest personal impression on me was to look into the operations room, this most secret of rooms with bars on the windows and special codes for anyone to be allowed in there. There were no staff there. Just this huge room of cabinets and computers and twinkling lights. And not a soul. The whole thing is automated. This is spying on thousands of people a minute and there's no-one there. There's no-one needed for it. Because it's actually like a great import of technology which has been plonked on the quiet countryside in New Zealand and spies on its own.

REPORTER: Hager set about finding out all he could on the secretive government agency that runs Waihopai - the rather inappropriately-named Government Communications Security Bureau. By combing job ads, government gazettes and electoral rolls, he found enough holes in security to get the names of many of its staff. One day, in censored documents released to him under freedom of information laws, he realised he could actually read the names through the blacked-out deletions.
HAGER: I thought this can't be true and I held it up to the light and I could read the names. I could actually see through their deletions the names ... this person has been sent on a special operation to Washington, operational from this date, leafed my way through and realised that as in so much of security, it's cosmetic, they don't do a very good job.

REPORTER: When Hager finally approached many of these spies, they were often prepared to talk about their secret work - he says - because most had strong doubts that what they were doing was in fact in their country's best interests.
HAGER: These were people, working in an agency who were supposed to feel the good feeling of working for their own country and many of them had a strong sense of what they were doing wasn't in their country's interests - or even a greater discomfort that they were doing things that even the prime ministers weren't being told about.

REPORTER: New Zealand's former Prime Minister David Lange had taken an anti-nuclear stand that upset the American allies. And Hager discovered from the spies he spoke to that when Waihopai was approved, the government bureaucrats had actually lied to the Prime Minister about its real purpose.
HAGER: The prime ministers weren't being told all sorts of important targets. When New Zealand entered the Echelon system and become fully integrated as a kind of an outpost of offshoots from automatic supply for the American intelligence alliance the prime minister in charge who signed the documentation for the funding wasn't even told they were doing it.

REPORTER: He didn't understand what he was doing?
HAGER: He was not told what he was doing and he was told other stories which were not true to justify it.

REPORTER: He was lied to?
HAGER: He was lied to.

REPORTER: What the spymasters kept from the prime minister was the fact that the Echelon system automatically sends intercepted communications directly to New Zealand's overseas UKUSA partners. Each UKUSA alliance intercept base, such as Waihopai, in New Zealand, and Geraldton in Western Australia, is directed by computers loaded with what are called dictionaries. The dictionary lists any target sought - a name, a word, a number - even, it's thought, a particular voice. As everyone's phone or data messages pass through a satellite these bases are sifting through that feed, looking for matches to the targets listed in the dictionary.
HAGER: Perhaps the most shocking revelation was when I discovered there wasn't one list in there in the NZ facilities, it wasn't the NZ list which then went to Wellington and they shared the intelligence. There were five lists there. And bigger than the NZ list was the American list. And those were American targets. They had nothing to do with NZ and the intelligence which that dictionary computer chose, the phone calls all the emails, whatever it was that were picked out by the American list went straight to Washington. They weren't sent to NZ.

REPORTER: Australia's arm of the Echelon system is at Geraldton half way up the coast of Western Australia. Opened in 1993, this spybase monitors the two main Indian ocean intelsats and possibly also the second of the two pacific intelsats, intelsat 703. Another spybase, Shoal Bay near Darwin, monitors the Indonesian Palapa satellite and other regional communications satellites. The Pine Gap base, near Alice Springs, is thought to also take data from orbiting spy satellites that can intercept communications such as overseas domestic microwave phone lines. Both Geraldton and Waihopai were trumpeted at their launch by Australia and New Zealand as giving both countries greater independence in intelligence matters - which is true, but not the whole story.
HAGER: The whole principle of the Echelon system was to automate it. It was the way the United States could use, not just indirectly by "please give us the intelligence you get", but could actually use the foreign countries facilities as if they were its own. And so the intelligence which is collected that the US wants from it goes straight back to Washington no different than if it had an American flag flapping outside and it was an American station.

REPORTER: How much does Australia know about what the Americans are using intelligence facilities on our soil to collect?
BLICK: Well I think you will have had information from DSD which indicates that there are arrangements in place as between DSD and the Americans to ensure that our national interests are protected.

REPORTER: It's a measure of the secrecy surrounding these spybases that this statement to Sunday from the Director of DSD Martin Brady was the first time anywhere in the world that the mere existence of the UKUSA alliance has been officially acknowledged in public.
READ of BRADY STATEMENT: "DSD does cooperate with counterpart signals intelligence organisations overseas under the UKUSA relationship." END READ.

REPORTER: The spy-chief declined to respond to detailed questions we asked him of any oversight Australia has of American intelligence gathering through Geraldton:
READ of BRADY STATEMENT: "...because to do so would compromise classified aspects of DSD's operations." END READ.

REPORTER: But he did say that:
READ of BRADY STATEMENT: "Both DSD and its counterparts operate internal procedures to satisfy themselves that their national interests and policies are respected by the others." END READ.

REPORTER: Around the clock, seven days a week, Echelon's dictionary sifts through millions of private calls and messages. Almost instantaneously, mostly without scrutiny by Australian eyes, those communications sought by American spies leave our shores.

REPORTER: Those intercepted phone calls and data communications from Australia get sent here to America to the offices of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, near Washington DC. The joke about the NSA is that its initials stand for 'never say anything' or 'no such agency'. But, humour aside, this formidably powerful organisation is still one of the most secretive agencies in the US government. And there's a growing chorus of concern that while the Echelon system is a powerful weapon in the battle against organised crime and terrorism, it's also invading the privacy of billions of people across the planet.

REPORTER: Just about everything to do with the National Security Agency is classified - even the number of people that work here - thought to number around 20,000. Its computer network is the most powerful on the planet. A few years ago the NSA was so worried an enemy might use the motel right next door, it bought the site and turned it into this museum. Everything here is a tribute to the very valuable role the NSA played to help America - and Australia - win the cold war. Officially, much of the NSA's time and resources is still directed at military and criminal targets but since the wall came down the President has specifically tasked spy agencies like the NSA to gather economic intelligence - and that brief sometimes includes sensitive commercial intelligence.
WAYNE MADSEN: Economic intelligence right now is king. It is the number one priority.

REPORTER: Former NSA staffer and intelligence commentator Wayne Madsen told Sunday Australia is being naive if it thinks economic intelligence obtained through Echelon intercepts on Australian soil is not being used to help American companies gain a trading edge.
MADSEN: The people at NSA and other intelligence agencies have been quite open with the fact that they say that if we find something that could benefit a US company we would have no problem in passing it along. But they usually confine that to Fortune 500 firms. We will only deal with the big guys. Economic intelligence gathering is the number one priority and there's many different programs being introduced to help economic intelligence gathering along. The most important of which is the plan or program to restrict the use of cryptography around the world to make it easier for intelligence agencies to listen in on sensitive business type information that may be encrypted.

REPORTER: One hundred and thirty six years after Abraham Lincoln pledged on the battlefield at Gettysburg a government of the people, by the people, for the people, his monument in Washington DC remains one of America's holiest shrines. When Mike Frost first began spying to protect that democratic ideal for America and his home country, Canada, he never had any doubts. Now, after 20 years on the inside of the UKUSA alliance, he is one of its biggest critics, blowing the whistle on some of the things he and his colleagues were asked to do in the name of democracy. He was a spy for Canada's UKUSA arm, CSE - the communications security establishment.
FROST: I know the American philosophy because they trained me. They told me what they do when they go to foreign countries and they set up intercept sites in - you name it - whatever country you want, be it Britain or a town in Italy, Australia or anywhere. I know the way they think and I know how they operate.

REPORTER: It's one of the quirks of democracy that we're told in order to preserve it we need to allow organisations like our DSD and Canada's CSE to operate without the full accountability and transparency other arms of government are exposed to. But in part two of our story you'll hear from Mike Frost how that trust has been abused.
FROST: Never over exaggerate the capacity of a system such as Echelon. Never ever over-exaggerate the power that these organisations have to abuse a system such as Echelon. Don't think it can't happen in Australia. Don't think it can't happen in Canada, because it does. [Commercial Break]

REPORTER: Tucked away in a corner of suburban Washington, this odd looking building was until very recently the headquarters of the Special Collection Service of the US National Security Agency. For 20 years, this was the location where spies from Canada, and Australia, came to learn how to listen in to other countries' private communications.

REPORTER: So this was one of the most top secret buildings in America at one stage?
FROST: Absolutely, probably THE most. You'll notice there are no windows down low at all. Just a large expanse of ... just a brick wall. All the things that NSA denied they ever had were made right here.

REPORTER: It was here that the US taught Mike Frost how to intercept embassy communications. Like a scene out of Maxwell Smart, he would enter the facility here through what used to be a fake drycleaning outlet. He visited this site hundreds of times to sit inside a lead-lined room, where the NSA would simulate the communications of a target city. Because he was a Canadian, the Americans often assigned him the most sensitive jobs. He was also here when the NSA first developed the father of the Echelon dictionary system, codenamed Oratory.

REPORTER: So the notion of keyword selection, a computer picking up key words in a communication and taping them automatically. That came from inside this building?
FROST: Born right here, inside this building.

REPORTER: As a highly trusted UKUSA insider, Mike Frost was privy to the unofficial favours that members of the alliance do for each other. In 1983 the then British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was planning a June election. Aware of internal discord, she had pushed out two ministers, and she was anxious to know how loyal two of her remaining cabinet colleagues were. Frost says the British arm of UKUSA, the government communications headquarters, GCHQ, asked the Canadians for a special favour.
FROST: That stemmed from a request through GCHQ liaison officer that was stationed at CSE. He told my boss that a request had come through the GCHQ to him from Margaret Thatcher asking if CSE could do something, quote unquote, to aid her in finding out if two of her cabinet ministers were - to use her terms - on side. Eyebrows were not raised when we were asked to do this.

REPORTER: So Margaret Thatcher says bug my Cabinet colleagues and you guys jump?
FROST: Basically yes. But Margaret Thatcher says don't get caught. So GCHQ says well we don't want to get caught so we'll ask CSE to do it. We'll ask the Canadians 'cause then we have deniability.

REPORTER: Ah so the British Intelligence services could stand up in Parliament and say none of our agents were involved in this operation?
FROST: Yes, and that's exactly what happened except the then Prime Minister - Major - he said it was quote 'clap-trap' unquote.

REPORTER: But you know it to be true?
FROST: I know it to be true.

REPORTER: On another occasion Frost was ordered to bug the mobile phone of Margaret Trudeau, the wife of the then Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau.

REPORTER: Was it your concern that the motivations for wanting to intercept Margaret Trudeau were actually quite improper?
FROST: Not at the time, it bothered me a bit yes. Because I just felt uneasy sitting down in a room in CSE with some earphones on trying to eavesdrop on a conversation by the Prime Minister's wife. It bothered me, not to the extent that I went to my boss and said 'No, I am not going to do this'. But it bothered me to the extent that I probably didn't try as hard as I could have. Because I think that deep down inside I just didn't want to hear.

REPORTER: For years the Americans used Frost's expertise around the world. But increasingly, the Canadian began to question how much trust his own country's spy-masters placed in the Americans. Especially since, the way these intercepts were recorded meant he often never even knew what he was listening to.
FROST: A lot of the stuff we did for the Americans we didn't even know what the raw traffic was. We'd be asked to collect things in a wide band mode, in other words go there and just wide band record the certain frequencies back to them and then we'd send those recordings back to NSA and so we didn't even know what was on there because they would give us the equipment to do the recording but they wouldn't give us the equipment to do the demodulation and the demultiplexy.

REPORTER: There's a precedent for such concerns here in Australia, when Australian spies revealed the new Chinese embassy in Canberra was riddled throughout with bugs. They were angry that, once again, the Americans were using Australians to plant bugs and record data - but only the Americans got to hear the raw feed. Such events have fuelled a healthy view among many inside the intelligence services that we spoke to that it's time for DSD to be made more accountable under an Act of Parliament. But calls for an Act to regulate DSD have gone unheeded by successive Governments despite the fact that in the US, the NSA is accountable not only in legislation but also by a Senate Committee that is briefed extensively about all NSA operations.

REPORTER: The National Security Agency in America is limited by legislation in its powers. Why not Australia?
BLICK: Well I really think Ross that's a matter for the Government and the Parliament. I'm not sure that I'm in a position to answer that question. It's a question that really should be directed to a member of the Government.

REPORTER: What worries senior Intelligence sources that we've spoken to is that without legislation to control what DSD is allowed to do there's theoretically nothing to stop politicians from issuing a new cabinet directive according to their political whims. And the other fear from within is the capacity for this spy system to be abused by our allies to gather commercial intelligence. Here at Shoal bay, near Darwin, this facility is our ear on Indonesia, including the Palapa communications satellite, which handles most of Indonesia's phone and data satellite communications. And it's either from here or the US based Yakima facility that one interception of Indonesian government communications was used to help the US win a major trade contract.
MADSEN: Based on NSA intelligence, intercepts of Indonesian communications, it was discovered that Indonesia was going to award that contract to the Japanese firm NEC. Now the US telecommunications company AT & T was also bidding on that same contract. This prompted President Bush to contact General Suharto and Bush kind of mildly reminded the old General about the support the US had given Indonesia over the years, militarily, economic, support for East Timor and I think Suharto got the message because eventually it was announced that Indonesia was going to split the award 50/50.

REPORTER: Intelligence author Jeff Richelson confirms his own excellent NSA sources reported the same story - but justifying the use of the intelligence on the grounds that the Japanese were playing dirty with foreign aid monies promised to the Indonesians.
JEFF RICHELSON: The case in Indonesia as far as I am aware of it involved the Japanese government putting pressure on the Indonesian government to give this Japanese company a contract on the basis of what foreign aid and so forth that the Japanese would give to Indonesia; and the US responding and you know finding out about that and then using President Bush's influence to sort of counter act that Japanese pressure.

REPORTER: But you can see how potentially that could be a problem if Australia was also involved in trying to bid for the same contract?
RICHELSON: Ah yeah, certainly.

REPORTER: Australia may be an ally of Canada and the US but in the international grain market those cold war allies are two of our most aggressive competitors for overseas wheat sales. It should worry any Australian wheat farmer then that Mike Frost witnessed the Canadian arm of the UKUSA spy system using the intercepted communications of another alliance member to procure a trade edge. Frost says the Canadians intercepted a car phone call by the US ambassador to Canada. That intelligence was used to win a wheat deal against the Americans.
FROST: The Ambassador was in his car going home and the other official was in the American Embassy in Ottawa. And the Ambassador said to the official well what's our bottom line on this anyhow. To which the American official answered him and told him, the Ambassador, what the American's bottom line was on this wheat deal. He contacted the section of CSE who was responsible for wheat and things like that and then a private report was written, gave it to the Canadian wheat board and once they knew what the bottom line the American's had, easily underbid them and we won a $5 billion wheat deal with China.

REPORTER: Frost's claims that Canada's CSE has abused the system to spy on allies is backed by the accounts another Canadian spy gave to journalists.
MADSEN: An individual named Dan Morrison is claiming he was an analyst at a Communications Security Establishment site in Masedon, Queen Charlotte Island in British Columbia, claimed that the CSE was intercepting intelligence on Canadian-resource based companies, especially those that are based out of Vancouver. And these would be companies involved in mining diamonds and gold for example.

REPORTER: Why would they do that?
MADSEN: This is the big international race now, to see which countries and companies can gain access to all these vast natural resources and mostly in developing countries.

REPORTER: In this documentary, aired on British television last December, a former military intelligence attache at America's London embassy until 1993 confirmed for the first time that the joint American & British UKUSA base at Men with Hill intercepts commercial information.
(FILE FOOTAGE COLONEL DAN SMITH, BBC: In terms of scooping up communications, inevitably since their take is broad band, there will be conversations or communications which are intercepted which have nothing to do with the military and probably within those there will be some information about commercial dealings. END FILE FOOTAGE)

REPORTER: In what was clearly intended to be a statement of the NSA's official line on commercial espionage, this official chose his words carefully. He claimed such spying is not a policy but he would not deny it goes on.
(FILE FOOTAGE COLONEL DAN SMITH, BBC: Technically they can scoop all this information up sort through it and find what it is that might be asked for. But there is no policy to do this specifically in response to a particular company's interests. END FILE FOOTAGE)

REPORTER: From your knowledge, is it naïve of us to think that the Americans would not be using these resources to gather economic intelligence for their interests?
FROST: I think you're being gentle and kind when you say naïve. Of course they are doing that. Of course. They have been doing it for years. But now that the cold war is over the focus now is towards economic intelligence.

REPORTER: The Wall Street Journal has already revealed the NSA targeted French defence contractor Thomson-CSF, which has offices in Australia. The 1995 stories claimed that the intercepts of Thomson's dealings with Brazilian government officials were used to ensure that a US defence contractor Raytheon got a contract - and not the French. A year later the European parliament suffered a similar scare. This Parliamentary Report says the NSA penetrated the e-mail system that links 5,000 EU-elected officials and bureaucrats. The Americans allegedly used some of that information as leverage in the GATT negotiations.

REPORTER: Across Europe there's been a frenzy of concern about us so-called Anglo's and our Echelon system - particularly in Germany and France. The irony is that, according to the prestigious French magazine, France has now set up an Echelon system of its own that's intercepting calls via the same satellites targeted by Australia and New Zealand.
MADSEN: Well I think the French are sort of like Inspector Renault in the movie Casablanca. I am shocked to find gambling going on in this establishment. The French actually are now creating their own world wide signals intelligence operation using their various colonies, islands, smaller islands around the World to place strategic and tactical signals intelligence intercept systems. I've heard that New Caledonia is actually one of the sites whereby they're intercepting the same trans-Pacific telecommunications that Waihopai and Geraldton does. Only it is for the French, French use and possibly French allies.

REPORTER: The head of a major Australian Defence contractor told SUNDAY privately he thinks Australia's DSD is too cautious about passing on useful commercial intelligence to Australian businesses when - in his words - everyone else is doing it. The Americans may be our allies in defence but to many Australian businessmen they are our most aggressive competitors in trade.
MADSEN: Well I think all countries have to re-examine their traditional relationships because in the world of economic competitiveness countries no longer have allies they only have interests.

REPORTER: But the biggest concern about the Echelon system is its capacity to intrude on every Australian citizen's personal privacy. That key-words intercepted in an innocuous message could be misinterpreted as something more sinister.
FROST: My concern is that with no accountability people fall through the cracks and innocent people are going to be targeted or on file somewhere.

REPORTER: Are you aware of any instances where innocent people have been compromised by the power of this kind of system?
FROST: When I was at the CSE, a lady was talking on the phone to her girlfriend about a play that her son was in. She did use the word 'bomb'. The intercepts were highlighted and in those days a hard copy was produced on paper and it was on the analysts desk within a day or two of the conversation. The analyst at CSE did not want this to go into the garbage in the event that there was more to it than what he knew. So he filed that telephone number and the phone and the name of the phone was issued into the CSE database as a possible terrorist.

REPORTER: To protect the privacy of Australian citizens, DSD does strictly operate under a detailed classified directive approved by Cabinet and known as the 'Rules on Sigint and Australian persons.' DSD told SUNDAY that the Rules prohibit the deliberate interception of communications between Australians in Australia. They also prohibit the dissemination of information on Australians gained accidentally during the course of routine collection of foreign communications. And they also ban the reporting or recording of the names of Australians mentioned in foreign communications. But there are exceptions:
BLICK: I'll give you a couple of examples. First of all where there is the expected commission or the commission of a serious criminal offence such as drug smuggling. Secondly there is the threat to life or safety of a person and thirdly there is the question of an Australian being deemed to be an agent of a foreign power.

REPORTER: But if Australian Citizen's aren't allowed to see the rules how can they even be sure if DSD is complying with them?
BLICK: Well the existence of my office is the insurance against non-compliance with the rules.

REPORTER: Shouldn't citizens have the right to at least be able to know if DSD does have information on them?
BLICK: Well citizens do have rights in relation to DSD because Australian citizens can complain to my office about the actions of DSD. And if they do so then I have the right to conduct an inquiry.

REPORTER: So if a citizen suspects that DSD does hold information on them, they can complain to you?
BLICK: They certainly can, they certainly can provided that they believe that DSD has done something wrong.

REPORTER: The dilemma of course is that the secrecy this spy system demands means any citizen would probably never be allowed to know if they are somewhere on a DSD file. And we just have to hope that our UKUSA allies will honour their pledge to respect the privacy of Australian citizens and Australian businesses. Meanwhile, across the planet in a quiet corner of the Virginia countryside we found ourselves sitting outside the new base for the American NSA's Special Collection Service - wondering if this really was the place where a whole new generation of Mike Frosts are being trained to listen in to your communications.

CONVERSATION WITH GUARD: "Have to ask you to leave Sir, we ask you to turn this off.

REPORTER: This is a public road why are we not allowed to ...
GUARD: No this is not a public road.

REPORTER: What about if we stand over there on the road over there?
GUARD: Going to ask you to turn that off one more time. You're on Federal property.

REPORTER: Sure enough it was. There are still some secrets - Echelon among them - that the spy-chiefs want to keep.