The Listening

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        The Listening
              A film by Giacomo Martelli

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                  PRESS INFORMATION

               DigiWorld Studios, Inc. presents

                    An Echo Film Production

                  Michael Parks     Maya Sansa

                    The Listening

                  Andrea Tidona James Parks

                    A film by Giacomo Martelli

                 Executive producer Riccardo Neri
            Produced by Daniel Armas, Bob Reynolds,
           Giacomo Martelli, Paolo Rossetti, Nicolai Iuul,
Screenplay by Giacomo Martelli, Inigo Dominguez and Riccardo Brun
                   Directed by Giacomo Martelli

                   Running time: 105 minutes

          ‘The Listening’ will be released throughout
          the world in 2007, and will have a theatrical
          exhibition in Los Angeles for one week,
          starting December 15, to qualify for
          awards consideration by the Academy of
          Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. ‘The
          Listening’ will be shown in the highest 2K
          digital projection ever shown to a public


Michael Parks ........................................................... James Wagley

Maya Sansa ............................................................... Francesca Savelli

Andrea Tidona               .................................................... Gianni Longardo

James Parks               ...................................................... Anthony Ashe

Matt Patresi ............................................................. Guglia Graef

Bruce McGuire .......................................................... Phil Kovacs

Terence Beesley........................................................ John Strobel

Vincent Riotta ........................................................... Vaughan

Carla Cassola ............................................................ Tina Longardo

Marc Fiorini .............................................................. Lehmann

Giulia Bernardini ...................................................... Katherine Palmer

Adam O’Neill ............................................................. Louis Perry

Claudia Zanella ......................................................... Annamaria

Jay Natelle ................................................................. Bryden


Executive Producers          Daniel Armas, Bob Reynolds,
                             Riccardo Neri

Producers                    Giacomo Martelli, Paolo Rossetti,
                             Nicolai Iuul

Screenplay                   Giacomo Martelli, Inigo Dominguez
                             and Riccardo Brun

Director                     Giacomo Martelli

Technical Consultants        Duncan Campbell, Federico
Casting Director             Bèatrice Kruger

Cinematographer              Eric Maddison

Editing                      Alex Rodriguez and Justine Wright

Music                        Christian Kusche-Tomasini

Production Design       Alessandro Marrazzo

Costume Design               Silvia Nebiolo

Public Relations             Murray Weissman & Associates

Marketing consultant         David Weitzner

Sound Design                 Tom Sayer

Dialogue Editing             Lee Herrick

Sound Recordist              Keith Tunney

Sound                        Reel Sound, Pinewood, London

Visual Effects               Effetti Digitali Italiani (EDI), Milano

    In a massive and remote American intelligence outpost in Northern England,
high tech start-up corporation Wendell-Cranshaw Technologies enters the
contractor game by presenting a controversial surveillance add-on system that it
has developed for ECHELON, the U.S. National Security Agency’s global
communications-monitoring network.
   When classified documents relating to the system’s sale go missing in Rome,
junior Wendell-Cranshaw executive Anthony Ashe (James Parks) enlists the aid
of NSA’s formidable surveillance capabilities to find those responsible. But the
mechanism misfires and points him to Francesca Savelli (Maya Sansa), an
innocent young Italian. Francesca is consequently targeted as an industrial spy
and is aggressively interrogated by Wendell-Cranshaw’s corporate security
       Appalled at Wendell-Cranshaw’s degree of influence and misconduct,
elderly NSA official James Wagley (Michael Parks) decides to make a stand
against his own agency’s ruthless corporate partners. However, during a closed-
doors showdown, Wagley’s friend and supervisor Phillip Kovacs (Bruce
McGuire) sides with Ashe and demotes Wagley. Betrayed and heartbroken,
Wagley defects, travels to Italy and snatches Francesca away before Wendell-
Cranshaw can resume interrogation procedures which would leave her brain-
damaged. He then contacts his former Italian counterpart and only other
surviving friend, Gianni Longardo (Andrea Tidona).
    Misrepresenting his intentions, he recruits Longardo for what he calls a
simulation. Along with an Alpine guide, they set up a clandestine listening station
in a shelter upon Mont Blanc, 3500 meters (11,000 ft) up in the Alps. Using
Longardo’s satellite expertise, they succeed in hacking back into the listening
station and hijacking Wendell-Cranshaw’s new system. Empowered with the
ability to listen to the listeners and to the whole world, their unity is nevertheless
threatened by the lies it is built upon.
    At the same time, back in the world’s largest listening station, Ashe struggles
against NSA officers to gain access to the station’s resources. He must find
Wagley and Francesca and contain the security breach if he is to secure the sale
of his system to the agency. This ignites a long distance listening battle between
the two stations: Wagley and his friends are in the ramshackle mountain hut,
remotely using NSA’s listening devices to collect evidence to expose Wendell-
Cranshaw. On the other side Ashe uses the same technology to attempt to locate
the site from which Wagley is attacking.
    When Wagley’s friend Longardo discovers the real, perverse nature of
their operation, the interpersonal and international conflicts begin to escalate
irrevocably. A raging Longardo gives away the mountain shelter’s position,
Ashe’s mercenaries begin to close in and a deadly chase ensues on the moonlit

“ECHELON Spy Network Revealed” – BBC Radio4, 11/3/99

“French Prosecutor Investigates US Global Listening System” – New York Times,

In the late 1990’s reporters obtained recorded evidence of NSA enhanced surveillance
capabilities. These recordings proved that NSA was able to listen through cell phones
even when they do not appear to be in use. How the recordings were made and where
they came from remains unclear.

The opening of this film employs footage of the actual surveillance facilities. Electronic
eavesdropping and computerized scanning for keywords does, in fact, exist.

Operating outside of established law, the ECHELON network is used for military,
political and economic espionage. Politically connected companies regularly receive this
information through CIA and NSA channels. – A conclusion from the EU Parliament
Report by The Temporary Committee on The ECHELON Interception System.

The value of this information to private corporations has been estimated to be $145
Billion. – A conclusion from the EU Parliament Report by The Temporary Committee
on the ECHELON Interception System.

“The technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the United States
government could enable it to impose total tyranny.” – ECHELON Global Surveillance
Report by The National Security Agency.

                             Production Notes

     Estranged by the degree of corporate influence within the largest U.S.
listening station in the world, an aging NSA officer defects and mounts a
clandestine counter-listening station high in the Italian Alps. His goal is to expose
the system that enables remote phone tapping of inactive phones.

     “The Listening” is an independent Italian-produced, English-language feature
and is the debut film of 29-year-old Italian director Giacomo Martelli, who also
wrote and produced. The technologies, procedures and harsh realities of
massive, industrialized phone tapping described in the film are all factual and the
result of the writers’ collaboration with Duncan Campbell, Europe’s foremost
expert on the NSA’s ECHELON automated global interception network.
     It features locations such as the highest glacier in Europe, the largest listening
station in the world (never before seen in a feature film), the island of Elba and
central Rome. It is the result of four years of work by an assorted crew of young
and often first-time filmmakers. It features genre icon Michael Parks in a dramatic
leading role and Italian auteur favorite Maya Sansa in her first
English-language role.
     “The Listening” was first distributed theatrically by Italy’s largest distribution
company, Medusa Film, and is being distributed throughout the rest of the world
by DigiWorld, headed by Dan Armas and Bob Reynolds. This is the company’s
first release.
     From a strictly cinematic point of view, the filmmakers were enticed by the
surreal architecture of the listening stations, with their huge white domes, rising
over secluded views, and their underground halls filled with computers that scan
through communications among human beings. An interesting narrative structure
was created that framed a long-distance conflict, which unravels through shots
that are fired in the air and bounce from one satellite to another.
     An assorted production team of cast and crew was created, comprising
veterans and neophytes of all ages, coming from such countries as Italy,
Sweden, the United States, England, Germany, New Zealand, France and
     They filmed over a period of eight weeks in Rome, the Isle of Elba, Mont
Blanc and at Menwith Hill, England, the site of the largest listening station in the
world. Its amazing exterior had never before been filmed in a work of fiction.
     Undoubtedly the most arduous scenes were filmed at 11,000 ft. on Mont
Blanc. Several crew members suffered from a combination of fatigue, stress,
freezing temperatures and lack of oxygen, but they were sustained by the notion
that they were in a unique location on top of the world.
     Turning an office cafeteria on via Tiburtina in Rome into the interior of a
temple of technology - and an Anglo-American environment at that— through set-
designing, lighting and staging, was equally complicated.

                         About the Filmmakers
First-time director Giacomo Martelli, who also produced and co-wrote the
screenplay was a young man of 25 when he wrote the film and 27 when he got to
direct it. Born in Milan, he grew up in Rome and studied philosophy and cinema
in England. “The Listening” was a four-year long project for him. Producer Paolo
Rossetti made his film debut as co-producer of “Fate Come Noi,” a film by
Francesco Apolloni (2000). After gaining further experience as a producer, he
created Echo Film along with Martelli. The third producer is Nicolai Iuul from
Denmark. He was raised in England and has produced many award-winning
short films, commercials and music videos. “The Listening” is his debut as
feature film producer. Eric Maddison, the director of photography, has shot more
than 60 videos and commercials in his native Sweden, as well as the 2003 hit
detective film “Ranarna.” The two co-screenwriters are both journalists. Spanish
writer Inigo Dominguez has worked as Bilbao’s Correro correspondent in Italy
for five years. This is his debut as a screenwriter. Riccardo Brun, journalist,
writer and screenwriter, won the David di Donatello Award for Mario Amura’s
short film “Racconto Di Guerra,” for which he wrote the screenplay. His latest
book is “La Citta Di Sotto”, published by Stampa Alternativa. The two editors
were Alex Rodriguez and Justine Wright. Rodriguez was the editor of the
successful “Y tu Mama Tambien,” and “Children of Men” by Alfonso Cuaron.
Justine Wright is from New Zealand and edited “One Day in September,” (which
inspired Spielberg’s “Munich” and was an Academy Award® winner as Best
Documentary in 1999), “Touching the Void” and “The Last King of Scotland” all
directed by Kevin MacDonald. Composer Christian Kusche-Tomasini has
composed music for more than 1000 television shows and films both in Italy and
Germany in his 25-year career.

                                About the Cast
Quentin Tarantino, who cast Michael Parks in “Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and 2,” described
him as “the world’s greatest living actor.” Praise indeed. His son James Parks
who also stars in “The Listening,” has acted in many films with his father, three of
them in the past year, “Noble Things,” “Three Priests” and “Street Poet.” Maya
Sansa, who was discovered by director Marco Bellocchio, is today considered
one of Italy’s leading young actresses. Veteran actor Andrea Tidona has
appeared in numerous Italian television shows and movies, including the Oscar®
winner “La Vita è Bella” by Roberto Benigni, and the highly successful satire
about Prime Minister Berlusconi, “Il Caimano,” from Nanni Moretti.

                        CAST BIOGRAPHIES

                               Michael Parks

   As a young up-and-coming actor in the 60’s, Michael Parks worked with
James Dean, with whom he shares his first contract. Parks played Adam in “The
Bible” directed by John Huston, but due to his rebellious personality he soon
becomes one of Hollywood’s outsiders.
   In his rather eccentric life he has lived on a boat, worked as a casket
upholsterer, recorded country albums, attempted to qualify for the 1972 Olympics
as a miler and turned down an offer to play minor league baseball. He made a
comeback in the TV show “Then Came Bronson,” in which he rode his Harley
across the United States, creating the catch phrase ”Hang in there.”
   After playing in dozens of films (and in the one film produced by Marlon
Brando) and all sorts of TV shows, he portrayed the villain Jacques Renaud in
the cult series “Twin Peaks.” More recently he was cast by Robert Rodriguez and
Quentin Tarantino in films such as “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn,” Kill Bill: Vol.1 and
Vol. 2.” Notably, in “Kill Bill Vol.2” he played the 80-year-old, smooth Mexican
pimp who once was mentor to Carradine’s Bill. The scene he plays with Uma
Thurman was long, but Parks is captivating and Tarantino left it uncut in the film.
On the “Kill Bill” website, Tarantino defines Parks as “the world's greatest living
   Sixty-six-year-old Parks is a charismatic actor and is also a gifted musician
and playwright. He is working on an adaptation of Pirandello’s “Enrico Quarto”
(Henry IV) and acted in Rodriguez and Tarantino’s new film “Grindhouse,” shot in


                                Maya Sansa
    Maya Sansa left her native Rome to study acting at the prestigious Guildhall
School of Music and Drama in London. Discovered by Marco Bellocchio in “La
Balia,” Maya became one of the leading young actresses in Italian auteur
cinema, acting in films such as “La Meglio Gioventù,” “Il Vestito da Sposa,”
“L’Amore Ritrovato” and most notably, “Buongiorno, Notte!” again directed by
Bellocchio. Her performance garnered several awards and international critical
acclaim. She currently lives in Paris.


                  CAST BIOGRAPHIES (CONT’D)

                               Andrea Tidona

   Tidona graduated from the Accademia dei Filodrammatici in Milan in 1976
and made his acting debut with Compagnia dei Filodrammatici in “Tre Quarti di
Luna” directed by E. D’Amato.
   He was then hired by Piccolo Teatro in Milan, where he worked as an actor
and assistant director with Giorgio Strehler for four seasons. The following
seasons he worked with Glauco Mauri. In Italian theater, he has worked with with
Cecchi, Freni, Manfra, Zampieri, Zucchi, Suggelli, Schiaccaluga, Pugliese and
many others. He has been cast in several successful Italian TV shows and in
motion pictures such the Oscar® winning “La Vita è Bella” by Roberto Benigni, “I
Cento Passi” by M. T. Giordana and the highly successful satire about Prime
Minister Berlusconi, “Il Caimano,” from Nanni Moretti. He was one of the leading
characters in another film by M. T. Giordana, “La Meglio Gioventù,” for which he
won a Nastro d’Argento as best leading actor.

                                 James Parks

    James Parks joins his father Michael in the cast, playing a junior executive for
a technological company. Father and son have appeared in four films together
over the last couple of years. “Noble Things,” “Three Priests” and “Street Poet”
were the other three, all of them currently in post-production.
    James started his acting career back in 1981, appearing in an episode of
“Nero Wolfe.” Working mainly in television, he has appeared in nearly 50 shows.
In his early years he worked as a set carpenter between acting gigs.
    He has appeared in a wide variety of the most popular television shows over
the past 25 years, including “Babylon 5,” different “Star Trek” series, “Buffy the
Vampire Slayer,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” “Stargate SG-1” and more recently
“Numb3rs” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.” He also acted with his father in
“Kill Bill: Vol.1.”

                       WHY MAKE AN ECHELON FILM

                           By Director Giacomo Martelli
     The issues of interception and violation of privacy, as well as the interference of
corporate interests in matters of national and international security, have been dealt with
separately in many great vintage and recent films. Dealing specifically with ECHELON,
however, offered the possibility of exploring those issues simultaneously. In particular,
the ECHELON scandals of the late nineties enabled us to address three key concepts.
     The first is the degree of automation inherent in the program, which courts disaster
as it seeks totality. The ECHELON system represents an evolution from one-on-one
phone tapping to a massive, streamlined integrated industrial process. The computing
and eavesdropping capacities available to NSA make it in fact possible for the agency to
remotely access and store vast global streams of communications intelligence, which
can then be sifted through in the comfort of NSA’s own listening posts on allied ground.
The second interesting feature about the ECHELON scandal is how it seemed to
awkwardly pit US interests in stark contrast to those of their European allies. To NSA
eyes and ears, listening to the private, civilian foreign communications of allied countries
was a matter of routine, but sparks flew in Paris and Brussels when this fact was laid
bare on the world stage for the first time.
         The third politically relevant aspect is that the ECHELON system, with its
gigantism, its unclear and perpetually refocused objectives and its tempting ties to the
industries who manufacture its parts, was the poster child for technological non-solutions
to post-cold war geopolitical chaos. In the interval between the fall of the Berlin Wall and
the fall of the World Trade Center, many mistakes were made. ECHELON being relied
upon to cover terrorism all by itself while in fact it was being used as the ultimate insider
trading tool was probably one of them. ECHELON’s uneasy quadruple role as crucial
asset, fool’s gold, economic cheat and dangerous weapon is exemplified in its moment
of triumph: Secretary Powell actually showing the UN Security Council transcripts of
NSA-intercepted communications that were supposed to prove, beyond the shadow of a
doubt, that mass destruction was brewing in Baghdad. As, in a way, it was.
         In researching and writing “The Listening” we went through three distinct phases,
we were disturbed, then fascinated, and finally detached. You start by being incensed,
as an English-speaking, freedom-loving European, at the notion of American big
brothers openly spying on your civilian countrymen for your own good. Then as you start
to uncover how clever, committed and full of sacrifices the history of NSA and CIA is,
respect inevitably ensues towards the monster you thought to fight. Finally you realize
that far from it being a worthy fight, as a filmmaker, to oppose NSA’s domination of
global airwaves, it is a pointless one. The technologies available to NSA are gradually
percolating down to consumers, soon privacy will be an utterly obsolete concept except
for the very, very wealthy, and at that point NSA will be far less dangerous than private
companies operating their own intelligence services. Like soldiering and security, spying
will become a consumer product and resistance will be futile. So we figured it’s probably
a case of either getting used to it or alternatively, packing to move to that South Pacific

                           How Private Corporations
                     Tried to Hijack U.S. National Security
                     (and European Privacy along with it).


     In 1952 a secret US government organization known as the Black Chamber was reborn, by
President Harry Truman’s executive order, as the National Security Agency. It was tasked with
code-breaking, code-making and collecting foreign communications intelligence. Communications
Intelligence or COMINT, is intelligence derived from the covert eavesdropping of human
communications. COMINT is the most important component of a wider grouping known as
SIGINT, or Signals Intelligence, which also includes things such as TELINT (intelligence from
foreign missile telemetry) and RADINT (intelligence from foreign radar emissions).
     For the first forty years of the agency’s existence, the world was largely unaware of its
existence: in the hallways of its gargantuan headquarters at Fort George Meade, Maryland, the
acronym NSA was ironically assumed to mean No Such Agency, or Never Say Anything. Quietly,
the NSAers listened as post-war history unfolded. Their colleagues in the CIA, the DIA, the NRO,
FBI, the armed forces and in NSA’s own mini army the CSS (Central Security Service), spent their
days and nights erecting antennas, sending satellites into space, tapping underwater telephone
cables and placing bugs in Russian phones on NSA’s behalf. Thus enabled, the NSAers cracked
whatever codes stood in their way, listened, translated, analyzed and then re-encrypted and
disseminated their findings back to Fort Meade or to whomever had commissioned or was
entitled to the intercept. Since the 1950’s, NSA has been secretly allied with the SIGINT agencies
of 4 English-speaking countries: the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The
existence of this secret alliance, codenamed UKUSA, was formally revealed only forty years after
its creation, and it has been instrumental in guaranteeing NSA, its senior member unparalleled
access to airwaves everywhere on earth.
     NSA’s secrecy was kept despite the fact as the years rolled by and NSA’s value was proved
again and again, it grew to become the largest, most powerful, most expensive information
gathering agency in the world. Its budget and its staff are now larger than those of the CIA and
FBI combined. It is the world’s number one buyer of hardware and software and the world’s
number one employer of linguists and mathematicians. If it were a company it would be among
the Top 20 of the Fortune 500 and its headquarters have expanded (mostly underground) to
cover a midsize town.
     Theoretically NSA is subordinated to the CIA, which by definition is the center of American
intelligence-gathering operations. In actual fact, NSA enjoys great autonomy. All the other
government agencies that “consume its product” i.e. that need to make use of NSA’s unique
brand of first-hand intelligence, respect its need to protect the secrecy of its methods and assets.
Thus are the lives of NSA employees also limited by the Agency’s greed for secrecy. They are
advised to marry in agency. They are not allowed to have relationships with foreigners, and are
subjected to regular polygraph tests. They can only be examined by surgeons and dentists who
have been previously vetted by the agency, to avoid the risk of secrets being disclosed to
unapproved personnel while under sedation. Like a mysterious oracle ensconced at the heart of
the US intelligence community, NSA was and is run by academics, bureaucrats and scientists,
rather than fighters or debonair secret agents. Cherished and feared, NSA is protected and
isolated from the outside world as much as possible.

                                                                          (CONT’D ON NEXT PAGE)

                           How Private Corporations
                     Tried to Hijack U.S. National Security
                     (and European Privacy along with it).



     The cultural and political inscrutability of the Soviet Union and the development of
telecommunications are the two main causes that determined NSA’s destiny and the genesis of
the program that came to be known as ECHELON. During the Cold War, American analysts and
policymakers were challenged with the difficult task of gathering reliable information from and
about the USSR. There were three possible methods: the first two involved either sending agents
into the field to gather human intelligence from local sources (HUMINT: expensive, difficult and
hazardous), or aerial espionage carried out from spy planes such as the U2 and later from
satellites (very expensive, limited in terms of the type of information that can be gathered, and
again hazardous as proved by the incident involving American pilot Francis Gary Powers who
crashed, was caught and put on trial by Russia). The third possibility was to listen to all of the
signals that could be intercepted (radio and television broadcasts, phone calls, telegraphs, radar
signals, communication among ships and planes). The information collected by SIGINT and
COMINT proved to be the cheapest, most fertile and reliable source of cold war information from
the Soviet area and from its satellite countries.
     Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, technological evolution and the unstoppable spread of the
world’s telephone network, made it increasingly impossible to intercept and analyze all available
signals, even for an agency that by then was employing over 15,000 people. Furthermore, it was
not always possible to predict what avenues of COMINT collection would turn out to yield useful
information. It was not a case of just tracking phone calls to and from the Kremlin, crucial spy gold
could be mined from Chinese ship-to-ship signals, Cuban radio broadcasts, European television
programs,        telegrams and telexes from Saudi Arabia, Angola, Korea or Chile.
Telecommunications are diversified: signals travel on microwaves, inside underwater cables,
through cables hanging on girder-poles, or they bounce from one satellite to another, and this
was even before Internet, mobile phones and optical fibers were invented.
     So when information technology and artificial intelligence reached an adequate level in the
late 1970’s, NSA and its UKUSA partners decided to clean up the shop and gave rise to the
ECHELON program. The basic idea was to open up all possible channels and let the information
flow in, trusting machines to help NSA operators trawl through the catch of the day in search for
useful items. As the machines and the search tools became more advanced, a ever growing
portion of the work was delegated to them. The ECHELON network’s prime characteristic, aside
from the sheer volume of material it harvested, was therefore its degree of automation. Whereas
NSA once had to choose its targets and point its ears at them, ECHELON, it was thought, would
allow the agencies to collect massive swathes of information, then to be sieved by machine-
assisted operators, it was a gigantic paradigm shift, and the embryo idea for today’s internet
search engines.
     The network itself was made up of elements such as spy satellites, (positioned to intercept
the signals bouncing between other telecommunication satellites); Ocean floor devices (that tap
into underwater telephone cables); enormous parabolic antennas that pick up signals from the
Earth and from space; smaller antennas hidden inside vehicles and embassies; and listening
stations where this information is gathered and processed.
     As of the end of the twentieth century there were twenty main stations and hundreds of
smaller ones. There are stations in each hemisphere, in every American embassy, in the middle

                                                                           (CONT’D ON NEXT PAGE)

                           How Private Corporations
                     Tried to Hijack U.S. National Security
                     (and European Privacy along with it).


of every ocean. Besides NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters, the largest and most important NSA
station is Menwith Hill, in northern England. Some of the other main ECHELON stations were
Leitrim in Canada, Waihopai in New Zealand, Alice Springs in Australia, Bad Aibling in Germany,
Morwenstow in Cornwall, and the American base on the island Diego Garcia Island in the Indian
     The crunch of ECHELON’s activity occurs inside these stations. Where computers compare
the incoming material to an hourly updated list of issues that concern the national security of the
United States and some of its allies. This list (code-named DICTIONARY) is shared by all the
partners in the UKUSA alliance and comprises everything NSA wants to collect information about.
DICTIONARY can include, anything from the names of Iranian nuclear scientists, to those South
American drug barons, prominent international politicians, religious leaders, terrorists, weapons,
computer programs etc. In addition to names, DICTIONARY is also a voice archive.
     NSA owns and collaborates in the building of the world’s most powerful computers. These are
machines capable of rapidly scanning through massive data flows (approximately 8 million
signals every hour in each of the main stations). The computer reads the messages or listens to
them using voice and language-recognition software (trained by mother tongue speakers),
comparing their content to the items in the DICTIONARY list. When it finds a match it notifies its
human operators according to their rank.
     The staff comprises a mixture of civilians and army officials, sometimes loaned or borrowed
to and from other UKUSA agencies. The Interceptors listen to the notified signals, the Translators
correct translations made by computers and pass them along to the Analysts who analyze their
content, and perform what is known as “gisting” (summarizing while neglecting top secret details,
often about where the information originates from). Gisting reports are then forwarded to the
supervisors according to a complex hierarchy of levels of clearance. The forwarding is termed
DISSEMINATION. NSA is the only partner within the UKUSA alliance to have access to all the
data collected by ECHELON.
     Nowadays, ECHELON is no longer called ECHELON. Following a scandal that broke out in
the 1990s, when the name was circulated in the press, the codename was changed to
MAGISTRAND at first, then became a string of digits that would be changed regularly, despite the
fact that changing a codename throughout the breadth of the intelligence community costs
something like $250.000 per codeword.
     ECHELON is NSA’s best known system and today it has become a general term referring to
NSA’s “big ear” but it is only an element within a wider constellation of NSA-operated programs.
These programs have names such as MOONPENNY, RUNWAY and CARNIVORE. The latter is
a program that monitors every e-mail sent and received anywhere in the world. NSA’s processing
capability is not science fiction: CARNIVORE reads all the e-mails on earth as they pass through
servers on US territory (most do). It analyses them searching for items of interest, keeps them in
an archive for a period of time and then deletes them if they prove innocuous.


    Menwith Hill station is the world’s largest and most important listening station. It was built in
the moorlands of Northern Yorkshire, in northern England. It features thirty white hundred foot tall
spheres and a few dozen smaller ones. These spheres are called RADOMES (Radar-Domes),

                                                                           (CONT’D ON NEXT PAGE)

                           How Private Corporations
                     Tried to Hijack U.S. National Security
                     (and European Privacy along with it).


but they are not radars. They encase and protect powerful parabolic antennas, while hiding the
fact that sometimes antennas are aimed at civilian communication satellites as well as military
satellites of other countries, some of them U.S. allies.
     It comprises a dozen surface buildings and a deep underground base and it is ostensibly
managed by the British Royal Air Force. Undermining is premise is an American flag fluttering
above the entrance and an electronic signboard keeping track of days left before Thanksgiving.
After World War II, Winston Churchill sold the land on which the station stands to the American
government. Later, the British Government ruled that British Telecom, a state telephone
company, build its central station directly underneath Menwith Hill, to facilitate the access and the
development of mass management programs of telecommunications. Thus, every phone call in
England, even one that connects two people sitting on the same bus in London, passes
underneath a remote American spy base.
     Menwith Hill and its staff were granted the Presidential Station of The Year Award by Bill
Clinton, for two years in a row, 1991 and 1992, for their support during the first Gulf war. The
station is constantly under construction, its enormous antennas being raised and dismantled
every month. One of the station’s future objectives is to become the European center of the SDI
program, also known as Star Wars.
    This is one of the reasons why Menwith Hill is continuously the object of demonstrations by
activists, such as Greenpeace and a group of local women. The “Menwith Women.” This group
contributed to the making of “The Listening” by staging fake demonstrations to closely observe
the station staff badges so that the production designer could reproduce accurate copies. English
laws guarantee the right to film the station from outside. The reduced crew were initially met with
some suspicion by the British Ministry of Defense Police that patrols the boundaries of the station
although they later became friendlier: the stations eerie appearance has made it few friends in the


     The three basic target areas for systems such as ECHELON are the war on terror, the war on
narcotics trafficking and checking illegal arms proliferation. If on one hand it is clear that
ECHELON is a remarkable tool in coping with these threats, on the other hand it clearly grants
NSA an enormous power over all the citizens of the world. The United Nations Human Rights
Charter, signed by the United States, states in Article 12 that “No one shall be subjected to
arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence.” The key word clearly
being “arbitrary.”
    American citizens are protected against ECHELON’s intrusiveness by their own legislation.
F.I.S.A. (The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) protects them, forbidding NSA to listen to
American citizens, even when they are abroad. When there is a need for the interception of
American citizens, the FBI performs this task as part of its counter-terrorism mandate, and the
clearance to proceed requires complex legal procedures. The current administration, in response
to the 9/11 attacks, has repeatedly attempted to pass legislation that would partially affects this
protection. There is no restriction against listening to non-American citizens, even when they are
citizens of important political allies of the United States. It is unsettling to realize how European
governments are unable to protect their own citizens from NSA, since it has access to any

                                                                           (CONT’D ON NEXT PAGE)

                            How Private Corporations
                      Tried to Hijack U.S. National Security
                      (and European Privacy along with it).


communication, it can comprehend any language and can dismantle any encryption. This is the
prerogative of the world of intelligence, where secret agencies perform their secret tasks away
from public scrutiny.


     “The Listening” illustrates an ECHELON subsystem, TUMBLEWEED. The name is fictional
(though the compound word structure is an NSA classic) whereas its function is real. NSA can
actually open telephone lines of mobile phones and of anybody who operates ADSL, ISDN or any
kind of electronic telephone exchange and can do this from a distance and covertly. Basically
what this means is that even if a European citizen is not speaking on the telephone, NSA can
activate, from the U.S., his or her office telephone, or their mobile phone and listen to the sounds
that are picked up by the microphone inside the phone. GMS phones can even be re-
programmed by NSA, from a distance, so that they appear to be switched off while NSA is
listening. The only clue that something rather strange is happening is that the phone battery
seems to dwindle at speaking rather than at standby rates.
     These techniques are real and the more computerized and intelligent telecommunications
become, the easier it will be for NSA to penetrate our lives from afar. In an office building
equipped with a fourth generation digital telephone exchange, NSA can listen though the
telephone wall plugs, even if there is no telephone in the room.
     These possibilities transcend the concept of COMMUNICATIONS INTELLIGENCE, in the
sense that they no longer involve listening to international phone calls between two or more
individuals who are communicating. Instead, they involve listening to raw human sound, such as
conversations that are theoretically not being carried out through the use of any tools. This is itself
is not news, ambient microphones have been used to tap apartments for decades. The innovation
lies in the combination of these techniques with the global reach and search capabilities of
ECHELON. NSA is delighted by the increasing European sales of mobile phones and personal
computers with in-built cameras, as it will soon be able to observe us through our own mobile
phones and computers, and from COMINT we will cross boldly into personal VIDINT.
     Thus, there is an ongoing race between those who try to broaden and deepen their access to
information, and those who try to build firewalls of privacy around themselves. In order to stay
ahead of the game, NSA, huge as it may be, needs help. The vast majority of NSA systems are
built by private contractor companies, to which NSA offers exorbitant contracts to develop the
technologies it needs. To this day an interesting debate is still taking place between the agency,
one of these private companies and a group of European mobile phone companies. The question
does not revolve around whether the agency has a right to listen through mobile phone calls in
Europe, but around the splitting of the call costs, since listening to a mobile phone that is
switched off can be a rather long process.


  The American government perfected the relationships between state and private industry
many years ago. President Eisenhower warned his country that the so-called military-industrial
complex was a threat to U.S. freedom and democracy, and if the events of this last decade seem

                                                                            (CONT’D ON NEXT PAGE)

                           How Private Corporations
                     Tried to Hijack U.S. National Security
                     (and European Privacy along with it).


to have proved this theory right, it is also true that, from Egyptian Building Contracts to the East
India Company, incestuous relationships between state and industry are not an American
invention. Nevertheless, in the 20th century, companies such as Boeing, Raytheon, TRW and
Lockheed Martin, have enjoyed privileged status with the government agencies for which they
build airplanes, missiles, satellites and computers.
     The end of the Cold War coincided with an unprecedented outburst of information technology,
and NSA was thus faced with a double issue. On one hand it had to keep pace with a rapidly
mutating technology and with suddenly multi-focal security threats. On the other hand, Congress
was increasingly reluctant to invest in intelligence (the dismantling of CIA was bandied about as
one of the more outlandish proposals) since the enemy, the original reason for NSA’s existence
and that of the entire contemporary US intelligence structure, had crumbled on CNN for the world
to see. However, as Jimmy Carter’s words echoed from an OPEC-Terrorized past, economic
intelligence was to be considered a function of national security.
     As far as NSA was concerned, this translated from high-minded strategy into tough-minded
tactics: ECHELON could be used to support American companies against competing foreign
companies. The so-called Contractor Companies would in turn continue to develop the
technologies needed by NSA, and would be reasonable about prices with the agency.
     This led to the big scandals of the 1990s. Two of the most infamous cases were Airbus and
CSF Thompson. Airbus was selling planes to Saudi Arabia, bribing the royal house left right and
center, when Boeing happened to succeed in penetrating the negotiation with a carefully gauged
offer, exposing the fact that the American company was aware of every detail of the French-
Arabian negotiation. Boeing ended up signing the contract. The second scandal involved CSF
Thompson, which was about to start a radar coverage project over the Amazon forest on behalf of
the Brazilian government. Raytheon, an American company, entered the negotiation and made a
better offer, supported by US government spokespeople who declared that Thompson had
attempted to bribe the Brazilian government. Raytheon signed the contract. Later, members of
the Brazilian government confessed they had been offered bribes by Raytheon as well as
Thompson’s. But the French version of ECHELON, jokingly referred to as FRENCHELON,
evidently was not as useful as the American one.


    The world discovered the existence of the UKUSA alliance and of ECHELON thanks to three
journalists. First of all, Nicky Hager, a New Zealander, who in his book “Secret Power” revealed
that listening stations in New Zealand were in fact American establishments. He managed to
speak to former NSA officials and former officials of its New Zealand counterpart. He was even
able to penetrate the enclosures of Waihopai station and take pictures through a window. These
were (and still re) the only pictures ever published that show the interior of an NSA listening
station. Hager said “The most astonishing thing is that there was no one in those rooms, the
whole system runs itself.”
     James Bamford is the author of “The Puzzle Palace,” the first book on NSA, published in the
late 1980s. The book was about NSA in general, and postulated the existence of something very
similar to ECHELON, but it was only in his second book, “Body of Secrets” that he was able to
disclose how ECHELON worked. Bamford illustrates the direction in which NSA is moving,

                                                                          (CONT’D ON NEXT PAGE)

                           How Private Corporations
                     Tried to Hijack U.S. National Security
                     (and European Privacy along with it).


namely the quantum computer, also described in “The Code Book” by Simon Singh. If functioning
prototypes are ever built, Quantum Computers will in theory be able to instantly decipher any
code, for they will be able to make an almost infinite number of attempts in parallel. Should NSA
get there first, codes will be history forever.
     Duncan Campbell is one of England’s most famous investigative journalists. He is a producer
of documentaries and a physicist, and in the 1980s he published the first map of English and
American nuclear silos in the U.K. He was charged with espionage and was the victim of a
slander campaign perpetrated by the British government due to his homosexuality. He
collaborated as a consultant to “Threads,” a devastating fictional documentary on nuclear winter,
whose American remake, “The Day After,” terrified the world. Today he is Europe’s top expert and
divulger of issues relating to electronic surveillance.
     After Hager’s book was published, the European Parliament created an inquiry commission,
which ordered a STOA report (Scientific and Technological Options Assessment). The report is
entitled “Interception Capabilities 2000”, and can be found online. In the report, Campbell reveals
the Airbus and the Thompson scandals, and along with his collaborators, he illustrates the
capabilities and threats posed by ECHELON and of other “technologies of political control.”
     The report caused a small diplomatic incident between Europe and United States. A
delegation of European Parliament members went to Baltimore to meet with the head of NSA, but
was sent back to Europe without so much as a cup of coffee. The situation got worse, forcing
President Bill Clinton to recruit James Woolsey, former head of the CIA and Gen. Michael
Hayden, then head of NSA (and now DCI, Director of Central Intelligence), to give a press
conference. Woolsey attacked Duncan Campbell and the STOA report using the following
arguments, which immediately proved to be contradictory.

    “The American industry is second to none, we thus have no need to spy on Europe nor

    And then:

   “We spy on you because you bribe, and so we listen to your phone calls. We spy on you to
keep a ‘level playing field.’

It is interesting that Woolsey suggested that in order to play fair, American industries need to rely
on a governmental military structure that cost thirty years’ work and $9 trillion, and which no other
country can afford. He continued in this vein

”Airbus bugs first class headrests on its aircraft, and generally speaking, there are restaurants in
Europe where you’d be crazy to take your briefcase.”

    Although Woolsey claims to have respect for Duncan Campbell’s intellectual honesty, his
remarks did starkly illuminate the difficulty even its operators have in justifying ECHELON’s
existence and some of its uses.

                                                                           (CONT’D ON NEXT PAGE)

                           How Private Corporations
                     Tried to Hijack U.S. National Security
                     (and European Privacy along with it).



     In the media agenda, the scandals of the late 1990s are substituted by 9/11 and its political
and military consequences, even though the attack on the Twin Towers points out an enormous
hole in the American espionage network. ECHELON seems to be insufficient as a defense
against organizations that are aware of its existence. On one hand it is an essential element in
the fight against terrorism. On the other hand it is also clear that any limit to ECHELON’s ability to
invade anybody’s privacy anywhere, spoils its effectiveness. NSA has a website,
and has opened a new office, which deals explicitly with its relationships with industry.
     “The Listening” is set in 1999, and even though NSA and ECHELON are the background to
the story, the idea is that the events narrated in the film draw one possible version of how the
existence of ECHELON was revealed to the international community. As the narrator of the film
says, the reporters who exposed ECHELON, never revealed their sources.

directed by:
Giacomo Martelli
Maya Sansa, Michael Parks, Andrea Tidona, James
Parks, Vincent Riotta, Bruce McGuire, Matt Patresi,
Terence Beesley
Giacomo Martelli, Inigo Dominguez, Riccardo Brun
Eric Maddison
Alexandro Rodriguez, Justine Wright
set design:
Alessandro Marrazzo
costume design:
Silvia Nebiolo
Christian Kusche-Tomasini
  Giacomo Martelli, Nicolai Iuul, Paolo Rossetti
  film run:
  35mm - colour
  release date:
  festival & awards:
An American company, Wendell-Crenshaw Technologies, unveils its most
recent creation: Echelon, a new system designed for the National Security

Agency that will allow for extraordinary capabilties in tracking and recording
conversations and information. In Rome, a student, Francesca Savelli (Maya
Sansa), inadvertently picks up a bag that contains materials about the new
system; when they realize that the bag is gone, agents for Wendell-
Crenshaw as well as for the NSA track her down and sequester her,
convinced that her act was deliberate and part of plot to steal the new
technology. Suddenly, Francesca gets caught up in the labyrinthine world of
state secrets and industrial espionage. A fresh take on a genre not seen often
in the Italian cinema, as well as a film (sadly) of great contemporary
resonance, The Listening offers a chilling look at the modern cult of
The Listening
Action, 1hr 45min
Starring: Michael Parks, Maya Sansa, Andrea Tidona ...more

A spy discovers a new tool of his trade has put an innocent woman in danger in
this political thriller. In the late 1990's, the National Security Agency teams up
with a computer software firm, Wendell Crenshaw, to implement a new
surveillance technology called Echelon, which will allow intelligence operatives to
tap into telephone systems (both cellular and land line) to watch and listen to
nearly anyone they choose. Francesca (Maya Sansa), who works at an art gallery
in Italy, one day finds a briefcase containing classified documents regarding the
Echelon system, and it isn't long before both the NSA and Wendell Crenshaw
realize she now has some very damning information in her possession. Ashe
(James Parks), a top executive at Wendell Crenshaw, takes it upon himself to
find Francesca and use violence to find out what she knows about the contents
of the briefcase; James (Michael Parks), an NSA operative, has been following
Ashe's actions and is forced to blow his cover and intervene before an innocent
woman is killed. Inspired by actual incidents, The Listening was shot in Rome by
Italian filmmakers with an English-speaking cast. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie
                                                   Name THE LISTENING

                                                   Duration 100

                                                   Country/Region Italy

                                                   Director Giacomo Martelli

                                                   Cast Maya Sansa, Michael Parks

Director Profile

                                Giacomo Martelli

                                He was born in 1976, pursued an English-language education in
                                Rome, Oxford and London. He attended the London Film School,
                                where he wrote and directed three
                                short film. He returns to Rome where he works as an assistant
                                director in shorts, features and commercials while writing and
                                directing his own shorts. Short film DOV'E BUIO is selected for
                                Rome’s Arcipelago short film festival. He directed his first feature
                                THE LISTENING

                                An American company, Wendell – Crenshaw Technologies, unveils its
                               most recent creation: Echelon , a new system designed for the National
Security Agency that will allow for extraordinary capabilities in tracking and recording conversations and

In Rome, a student, Francesca Savelli (Maya Sansa) inadvertently pick up a bag that contains materials
about the new system; when they realize that the bag is gone, Agents of Wendell – Crenshaw as well as
for the NSA track her down and sequester her, convinced that her act was deliberate and part of plot to
steal the new technology.

Suddenly, Francesca caught up in the labyrinthine world of state secrets and industrial espionage.

A fresh take on a genre not seen often in Italian cinema, as well as a film (sadly) of great contemporary
This film offers a chilling look at the modern cult of surveillance.

Italy, 2006 - 105'
Color and B&W, 35 mm

Giacomo Martelli

Michael Parks
Maya Sansa
Andrea Tidona
James Parks

Giacomo Martelli, Inigo Dominguez, Riccardo Brun

Paolo Rossetti, Nicolai Iuul, Giacomo Martelli


16.10.2006 h 13:30, Barberini 5

Synopsis In a massive and remote American intelligence outpost in
northern England, high tech start-up corporation Wendell-Cranshaw
Technologies, enters the contractor game by presenting a controversial
surveillance add-on system that it has developed for Echelon, the U.S.
National Security Agency's global communications-monitoring network
The Listening
  A film by Giacomo Martelli