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1999 11 18 * Ekstra Bladet * I sold my life to Big Brother * Bo Elkjaer, Kenan Seeberg

"Denmark's ministers can believe whatever they want to. I know Echelon exists, because I helped make the system."


For the second day running, former Echelon spy Margaret Newsham
tells about the 'Black World' of espionage - and the fatal consequences it is had on her life.
Half of her espionage colleagues are dead today.

"The surveillance was incredibly target-oriented. We were capable of singling out an individual or organization and monitoring all electronic communication - real time - and all the time. The person was monitored without ever having a chance to discover it, and most of the information was sent with lightening speed to another station using the enormous digital capacity at our command. Everything took place without a search warrant."

Was all the information forwarded to NSA headquarters at Fort George Meade in Maryland?
"Not all of it, but quite a lot."

Does the system use programs that are capable of virtually scouring the airwaves based on certain categories and trigger words?
"That's one of the ways it functions, yes. It's like an Internet search engine. By restricting your search to specific numbers, persons or terms, you get results that are all related to whatever you enter.



Ekstra Bladet meets the former surveillance spy, Margaret Newsham, in her home just outside Las Vegas. By talking to Ekstra Bladet, she chooses to break her silence and tell us as much as she considers to be reasonably safe. Because Newsham is still subject to the omertà of the intelligence services. According to this stringent code of silence, she is not allowed to reveal anything about her espionage activities for the NSA.

"But it is hard for me to live with the fact that I sold my life and my freedom of speech to the largest intelligence service of the US government." On the whole, it is difficult for Margaret Newsham to lead a normal life, even though she wants to do that most of all. In 1984, she was dismissed by Lockheed Martin, which built espionage equipment for NSA. Ultimately, she refused to work on a project which she felt was a security risk. She was 'terminated' as they called it - and she sued them for wrongful dismissal.



"I experienced security breaches almost every day both at Lockheed's headquarters in Sunnyvale, California and at Menwith Hill, England. Sometimes it was utterly absurd. At a barbecue party held by colleagues from the department responsible for developing the 'invisible' Stealth bomber, the barbecue kettle was made of the same material that made the bomber invisible to hostile radar systems. Another time, somebody had coffee mugs made and all of them were covered with prints of highly classified Echelon stations. But they were also involved in actual swindling. Lockheed Martin undercut other companies to get NSA project contracts, after which they illegally transferred money and manpower to meet the contract. Since they could swindle others for hundreds of millions of dollars, they were capable of anything. That made them very deceitful, and in my eyes, they jeopardized the security of the United States Government."

Was the US Government informed about the clandestine projects?
"No. That's why we called them 'Black Programs". The government didn't really know what was happening or what the many billions were actually being used for. And I felt very loyal both to the government and to the American Constitution, which was constantly being infringed. The world of espionage was also called 'The Black World' because most of the operations were carried out in secrecy, beyond any control."

Since her dismissal, Margaret Newsham has been under heavy pressure, because her case against Lockheed Martin could mean that an open court case would shed light on the NSA's 'black projects'. Among other things, the case deals with swindling for more than 10 billion DKK (ca. 1.4 billion USD), and for the time being, her lawyer has provided her with legal assistance that is the equivalent of 140 million DKK (ca. 20 million USD).



The case has had a fatal effect on her health. Since '84 she has had a seizure that left her totally paralyzed, survived a cardiac arrest, and on top of everything else is suffering from cancer. Today, she lives on borrowed time and suffers from high blood pressure.

"It didn't help any when my husband asked for a divorce after I had survived my cardiac arrest. He is chief of security at Lockheed Martin and has also been under a lot of pressure. He was grossly harassed because of his affiliation with me," Newsham says.

She lives alone now and has struggled to maintain contact with her three children and six grandchildren. Today, she lives in a quiet Las Vegas suburb. Not even her neighbors know about her past.

"NSA's activities have not only affected me, but also my former espionage colleagues at Lockheed. Nearly half of the people I worked with on clandestine projects are either dead or mortally ill today. For example, my former boss on the Echelon project, Robert Looper, died prematurely of heart failure, and Kay Nickerson, who worked on developing the Stealth bomber, died of brain damage."

But how could half of your former colleagues die prematurely?
"I don't know how to explain it, but at one point we discovered that Lockheed's headquarters in Sunnyvale are built on top of a highly radioactive dumping ground."

What did they die of?
"Heart failure, cancer, inexplicable seizures and brain damage. Even I am going to die of cancer before my time. But I have my lawyers, my doctor and my children and grandchildren to support me. They are the people I am fond of."

What gives you the courage to continue?
"The fact that the NSA, CIA and NRO (National Reconnaissance Organization) are carrying on illegal espionage against the rest of the world. They say they are doing it to catch drug criminals, gunrunners and the like. But that doesn't give them the right to do what they're doing. They are constantly breaking the law."



In Denmark, leading politicians and ministers deny any knowledge of Echelon beyond what they read in the newspapers.

"Now they can read about me then. I am living proof of Echelon's existence. I configured and ran a lot of Echelon's programs." Margaret Newsham shows us the order that stationed her at Menwith Hill, the specifications for some Echelon programs and other internal documents.

We found discarded computer remnants at the Aflandshage Listening Post in Denmark designated "VAX RED". Does that mean anything to you?
"Yes, as a matter of fact it means two things. You see, I worked on VAX computers myself, and they were used on the Echelon project.
"The color RED probably refers to the classification level. Because the security system is based on the fact that only very few people have an overall picture of everything that goes on. Therefore, some employees have red tags, some purple, some blue and so on. That means that they are only allowed to work with certain parts of the projects, i.e. the ones that are classified under the same color. As a result, very few employees have a complete picture of what is really going on. Since my tag had all the colors, I had a good overview. I was also the one who made the back-up files."



Can you understand how some people find it hard to believe that a system like this really exists?
"Yes, but it is real. We are spying on our own citizens and the rest of the world - even our European allies. If I say 'Amnesty' or 'Margaret Newsham', it is intercepted, analyzed, coordinated, forwarded and registered - if it is of interest to the intelligence agencies. I spoke with a radiologist recently, who had done exactly the same thing I had, only ten years later, in 1991, under 'Operation Desert Storm'. If only I could tell you everything, then you would understand that Echelon is so big, it's immensity almost defies comprehension." Margaret Newsham does not regret that she has been a pariah in the US intelligence community since her break with the NSA in 1984. A break that cost her her husband, her job and her health.

Is there anything you would you have done differently?
"Not for a second. It is important for the truth to come out. I don't believe we should put up with being controlled by 'Big Brother' in the future. But we put up ith it now."



For ten years, Newsham worked for the US munitions and computer firms Signal Science, Ford Aerospace and Lockheed Martin. They had contracts for the development and upgrading of Echelon satellites and computers which the companies designed for the intelligence agency NSA. The NSA cooperates closely with the CIA and NRO (National Reconnaissance Organization). For two years, Newsham shared the responsibility for the day-to-day functioning of Echelon's computer network at Menwith Hill, England. In classified documents, which are in the possession of Ekstra Bladet, Menwith Hill is referred to as 'the largest station in the service'. Denmark participates on a third-party basis in UKUSA, an electronic surveillance agreement.