This is a fascinating story about the life of a reporter who was able to unmask British eavesdropping spies and in turn was the first journalist to ever write about the NSA ECHELON program:
Newsham explained that ECHELON was an automated computer-driven system for sifting and sorting all types of international civilian communications intercepted from satellites — mainly operated by U.S. companies.
The scale of the operation she described took my breath away (this was 1988, remember). The NSA and its partners had arranged for everything we communicated to be grabbed and potentially analyzed. ECHELON was at the heart of a massive, billion-dollar expansion of global electronic surveillance for the 21st century, she explained. She feared the scale of automated surveillance. “Its immensity almost defies comprehension. … It is important for the truth to come out,” she said. “I don’t believe we should put up with being controlled by Big Brother.”
While sitting inside Building 36D at Menwith Hill Station, Newsham had been invited to listen on headphones to a live call from inside the U.S. Senate. She recognized the voice of Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, and immediately realized the NSA had gone off track. “Constitutional laws had been broken,” she told me.
She explained how she had provided evidence to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Investigators told her they had issued subpoenas, and had asked to see plans for ECHELON. But nothing had happened.
She handed me some of the plans for ECHELON. In technical jargon, one described a basic tool kit for surveillance — the “commonality of automated data processing equipment (ADPE) in the ECHELON system.” Others described the ECHELON “Dictionary” database, the heart of the system holding target groups of keywords. “Dictionary” ran on networks of mini-computers. Newsham had managed these networks. Some plans listed equipment she had helped deploy for a secret project code-named “CARBOY II.” She did not know where CARBOY was.