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Echelon Gave Authorities Warning Of Attacks
2001 SEP 13 (NB) -- By Ned Stafford, Newsbytes.
Friday September 14, 4:16 AM
U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies
received warning signals at least three months ago that
Middle Eastern terrorists were planning to hijack commercial
aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of
American and Israeli culture, according to a story in Germanys
daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).
The FAZ, quoting unnamed German intelligence
sources, said that the Echelon spy network was being used
to collect information about the terrorist threats, and
that U.K. intelligence services apparently also had advance
warning. The FAZ, one of Germanys most respected dailies,
said that even as far back as six months ago western and
near-east press services were receiving information that
such attacks were being planned.
Within the American intelligence community,
the warnings were taken seriously and surveillance intensified,
the FAZ said. However, there was disagreement on how such
terrorist attacks could be prevented, the newspaper said.
Echelon is said to be a vast information
collection system capable of monitoring all the electronic
communications in the world. It is thought to be operated
by the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
No government agency has ever confirmed or denied its existence.
However, an EU committee that investigated Echelon for more
than a year just last week reported its belief that the
system does exist.
The EU committee said that Echelon sucks
up electronic transmissions "like a vacuum cleaner,"
using keyword search techniques to sift through enormous
amounts of data.
The FAZ, in its news story, described the
system as covering the whole world with 120 satellites.
The newspaper also said Israeli intelligence had collected
information indicated that Arab terrorist groups planned
to hijack planes in Europe to use as weapons to attack targets
in Tel Aviv and other coastal cities in Israel.
Because of increasing concerns of plane
hijackings, Israel has tested a new x-ray machine at the
Tel Aviv airport, the FAZ said. The machine capable of detecting
all known explosive elements, even if only in small quantities,
the newspaper said.
The FAZ said that German intelligence fears
that in coming days planes will be hijacked in Europe and
the Near East, and that there is no sure way to protect
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