ECHELON
Menwith Hill, England
ECHELON Intercept Station
+54 00' 37.81", -1 41' 23.50"
..

Rumors have abounded for several years of a massive system designed to intercept virtually all email and fax traffic in the world and subject it to automated analysis, despite laws in many nations (including this one) barring such activity. The laws were circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. It's illegal for the United States to spy on it's citizens. Likewise the same for Great Britain. But under the terms of the UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens and the two groups trade data. Technically, it may be legal, but the intent to evade the spirit of the laws protecting the citizens of those two nations is clear.

The system is called ECHELON, and had been rumored to be in development since 1947, the result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The purpose of the UKUSA agreement was to create a single vast global intelligence organization sharing common goals and a common agenda, spying on the world and sharing the data. The uniformity of operation is such that NSA operatives from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill to intercept local communications without either nation having to formally approve or disclose the interception.
What is ECHELON used for?

In the days of the cold war, ECHELON's primary purpose was to keep an eye on the U.S.S.R. In the wake of the fall of the U.S.S.R. ECHELON justifies it's continued multi-billion dollar expense with the claim that it is being used to fight "terrorism", the catch-all phrase used to justify any and all abuses of civil rights.

With the exposure of the APEC scandal, however, ECHELON's capabilities have come under renewed scrutiny and criticism by many nations. Although not directly implicated in the bugging of the Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Seattle, the use of so many U.S. Intelligence agencies to bug the conference for the purpose of providing commercial secrets to DNC donors raised the very real possability that ECHELON's all-hearing ears were prying corporate secrets loose for the advantage of the favored few.

Given that real terrorists and drug runners would always use illegal cryptographic methods anyway, the USA led attempt to ban strong crypto to the general populace seemed geared towards keeping corporate secrets readable to ECHELON, rather than any real attempt at crime prevention.
The cover blows off!

Even close allies do not like it when they are being spied on. Especially if the objective is not law enforcement but corporate shenanigans to make rich politicians just that much richer. So, the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament looked into ECHELON, and officially confirmed it's existence and purpose.

 
Menwith Hill, Photo: Duncan Campbell

Here is the article that ran in the London Telegraph. 
 

London Telegraph
Tuesday 16 December 1997

Issue 936

Spies like US

A European Commission report warns that the United States has developed an extensive network spying on European citizens and we should all be worried. Simon Davies reports

Cooking up a charter for snooping

A GLOBAL electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, email and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report to be delivered this week.

The report - Assessing the Technologies of Political Control - was commissioned last year by the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament. It contains details of a network of American-controlled intelligence stations on British soil and around the world, that "routinely and indiscriminately" monitor countless phone, fax and email messages.

It states: "Within Europe all email telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency transfering all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill in the North York moors in the UK."

The report confirms for the first time the existence of the secretive ECHELON system.

Until now, evidence of such astounding technology has been patchy and anecdotal. But the report - to be discussed on Thursday by the committee of the office of Science and Technology Assessment in Luxembourg - confirms that the citizens of Britain and other European
states are subject to an intensity of surveillance far in excess of that imagined by most parliaments. Its findings are certain to excite the concern of MEPs.

"The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system (Cooking up a charter for snooping) but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON is designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.

"The ECHELON system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and then siphoning out what is valuable using artificial intelligence aids like MEMEX to find key words".

According to the report, ECHELON uses a number of national dictionaries containing key words of interest to each country.

For more than a decade, former agents of US, British, Canadian and New Zealand national security agencies have claimed that the monitoring of electronic communications has become endemic throughout the world. Rumours have circulated that new technologies have been developed which have the capability to search most of the world's telex, fax and email networks for "key words". Phone calls, they claim, can be automatically analysed for key words.

Former signals intelligence operatives have claimed that spy bases controlled by America have the ability to search nearly all data communications for key words. They claim that ECHELON automatically analyses most email messaging for "precursor" data which assists intelligence agencies to determine targets. According to former Canadian Security Establishment agent Mike Frost, a voice recognition system called Oratory has been used for some years to intercept
diplomatic calls.

The driving force behind the report is Glyn Ford, Labour MEP for Greater Manchester East. He believes that the report is crucial to the future of civil liberties in Europe.

"In the civil liberties committee we spend a great deal of time debating issues such as free movement, immigration and drugs. Technology always sits at the centre of these discussions. There are times in history when technology helps democratise, and times when it helps centralise. This is a time of centralisation. The justice and home affairs pillar of Europe has become more powerful without a corresponding strengthening of civil liberties."

The report recommends a variety of measures for dealing with the increasing power of the technologies of surveillance being used at Menwith Hill and other centres. It bluntly advises: "The European Parliament should reject proposals from the United States for making private messages via the global communications network (Internet) accessible to US intelligence agencies."

The report also urges a fundamental review of the involvement of the American NSA (National Security Agency) in Europe, suggesting that their activities be either scaled down, or become more open and accountable.

Such concerns have been privately expressed by governments and MEPs since the Cold War, but surveillance has continued to expand. US intelligence activity in Britain has enjoyed a steady growth throughout the past two decades. The principal motivation for this rush of development is the US interest in commercial espionage. In the Fifties, during the development of the "special relationship" between America and Britain, one US institution was singled out for special attention.

The NSA, the world's biggest and most powerful signals intelligence organisation, received approval to set up a network of spy stations throughout Britain. Their role was to provide military, diplomatic and economic intelligence by intercepting communications from throughout
the Northern Hemisphere.

The NSA is one of the shadowiest of the US intelligence agencies. Until a few years ago, it existence was a secret and its charter and any mention of its duties are still classified. However, it does have a Web site (www.nsa.gov) in which it describes itself as being responsible for the signals intelligence and communications security activities of the US government.

One of its bases, Menwith Hill, was to become the biggest spy station in the world. Its ears - known as radomes - are capable of listening in to vast chunks of the communications spectrum throughout Europe and the old Soviet Union.

In its first decade the base sucked data from cables and microwave links running through a nearby Post Office tower, but the communications revolutions of the Seventies and Eighties gave the base a capability that even its architects could scarcely have been able to imagine. With the creation of Intelsat and digital telecommunications, Menwith and other stations developed the capability to eavesdrop on an extensive scale on fax, telex and voice messages. Then, with the
development of the Internet, electronic mail and electronic commerce, the listening posts were able to increase their monitoring capability to eavesdrop on an unprecedented spectrum of personal and business communications.

This activity has been all but ignored by the UK Parliament. When Labour MPs raised questions about the activities of the NSA, the Government invoked secrecy rules. It has been the same for 40 years.

Glyn Ford hopes that his report may be the first step in a long road to more openness. "Some democratically elected body should surely have a right to know at some level. At the moment that's nowhere".

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SOURCE: whatreallyhappened.com

EXPOSING THE GLOBAL SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM
by Nicky Hager
from his book SECRET POWER

IN THE LATE 1980S, IN A DECISION IT PROBABLY REGRETS, THE US PROMPTED
NEW ZEALAND TO JOIN A NEW AND HIGHLY SECRET GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE SYSTEM.

HAGER'S INVESTIGATION INTO IT AND HIS DISCOVERY OF THE ECHELON
DICTIONARY HAS REVEALED ONE OF THE WORLD'S BIGGEST, MOST CLOSELY HELD
INTELLIGENCE PROJECTS. THE SYSTEM ALLOWS SPY AGENCIES TO MONITOR MOST
OF THE WORLD'S TELEPHONE, E-MAIL, AND TELEX COMMUNICATIONS.
 

Map of Network (Click on map for larger view)

For 40 years, New Zealand's largest intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) the nation's equivalent of the US National Security Agency (NSA) had been helping its Western allies to spy on countries throughout the Pacific region, without the knowledge of the New Zealand public or many of its highest elected officials. What the NSA did not know is that by the late 1980s, various intelligence staff had decided these activities had been too secret for too long, and were providing me with interviews and documents exposing New Zealand's intelligence activities. Eventually, more than 50 people who work or have worked in intelligence and related fields agreed to be interviewed.

The activities they described made it possible to document, from the South Pacific, some alliance-wide systems and projects which have been kept secret elsewhere. Of these, by far the most important is ECHELON.

Designed and coordinated by NSA, the ECHELON system is used to intercept ordinary e-mail, fax, telex, and telephone communications carried over the world's telecommunications networks. Unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON is
designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations, businesses, and individuals in virtually every country. It potentially affects every person communicating between (and sometimes within) countries anywhere in the world.

It is, of course, not a new idea that intelligence organizations tap into e-mail and other public telecommunications networks. What was new in the material leaked by the New Zealand intelligence staff was precise information on where the spying is done, how the system works,
its capabilities and shortcomings, and many details such as the codenames.
..

Six UKUSA station target Intelsat satellites used to relay-and to
intercept-most of the world's e-mail,fax, and telex communications.

The ECHELON system is not designed to eavesdrop on a particular individual's e-mail or fax link. Rather, the system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and using computers to identify and extract messages of interest from the mass of unwanted ones. A chain of secret interception facilities has been established around the world to tap into all the major components of the international telecommunications networks. Some monitor communications satellites, others land-based communications networks, and others radio communications. ECHELON links together all these facilities, providing the US and its allies with the ability to intercept a large proportion of the communications on the planet.

The computers at each station in the ECHELON network automatically search through the millions of messages intercepted for ones containing pre-programmed keywords. Keywords include all the names, localities, subjects, and so on that might be mentioned. Every word of every message intercepted at each station gets automatically searched whether or not a specific telephone number or e-mail address is on the list.

The thousands of simultaneous messages are read in "real time" as they pour into the station, hour after hour, day after day, as the computer finds intelligence needles in telecommunications haystacks.

"Every word of every message intercepted at each station gets automatically searched- whether or not a specific telephone number or e-mail address is on the list."

SOMEONE IS LISTENING The computers in stations around the globe are known, within the network, as the ECHELON Dictionaries. Computers that can automatically search through traffic for keywords have existed since at least the 1970s, but the ECHELON system was designed by NSA to interconnect all these computers and allow the stations to function as components of an integrated whole. The NSA and GCSB are bound together under the five-nation UKUSA signals intelligence agreement. The other three partners all with equally obscure names are the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Britain, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) in Canada, and the Defense Signals Directorate (DSD) in Australia.

The alliance, which grew from cooperative efforts during World War II to intercept radio transmissions, was formalized into the UKUSA agreement in 1948 and aimed primarily against the USSR. The five UKUSA agencies are today the largest intelligence organizations in their respective countries. With much of the world's business occurring by fax, e-mail, and phone, spying on these communications receives the bulk of intelligence resources. For decades before the introduction of the ECHELON system, the UKUSA allies did intelligence collection operations for each other, but each agency usually processed and analyzed the intercept from its own stations.

Under ECHELON, a particular station's Dictionary computer contains not only its parent agency's chosen keywords, but also has lists entered in for other agencies. In New Zealand's satellite interception station at Waihopai (in the South Island), for example, the computer has separate search lists for the NSA, GCHQ, DSD, and CSE in addition to its own. Whenever the Dictionary encounters a message containing one of the agencies' keywords, it automatically picks it and sends it directly to the headquarters of the agency concerned. No one in New Zealand screens, or even sees, the intelligence collected by the New Zealand station for the foreign agencies. Thus, the stations of the junior UKUSA allies function for the NSA no differently than if they were overtly NSA-run bases located on their soil.

The first component of the ECHELON network are stations specifically targeted on the international telecommunications satellites (Intelsats) used by the telephone companies of most countries. A ring of Intelsats is positioned around the world, stationary above the equator, each serving as a relay station for tens of thousands of simultaneous phone calls, fax, and e-mail. Five UKUSA stations have been established to intercept the communications carried by the Intelsats.

The British GCHQ station is located at the top of high cliffs above the sea at Morwenstow in Cornwall. Satellite dishes beside sprawling operations buildings point toward Intelsats above the Atlantic, Europe, and, inclined almost to the horizon, the Indian Ocean. An NSA station
at Sugar Grove, located 250 kilometers southwest of Washington, DC, in the mountains of West Virginia, covers Atlantic Intelsats transmitting down toward North and South America. Another NSA station is in Washington State, 200 kilometers southwest of Seattle, inside the Army's Yakima Firing Center. Its satellite dishes point out toward the Pacific Intelsats and to the east. *1

The job of intercepting Pacific Intelsat communications that cannot be intercepted at Yakima went to New Zealand and Australia. Their South Pacific location helps to ensure global interception. New Zealand provides the station at Waihopai and Australia supplies the Geraldton station in West Australia (which targets both Pacific and Indian Ocean Intelsats). *2

Each of the five stations' Dictionary computers has a codename to distinguish it from others in the network. The Yakima station, for instance, located in desert country between the Saddle Mountains and Rattlesnake Hills, has the COWBOY Dictionary, while the Waihopai station has the FLINTLOCK Dictionary. These codenames are recorded at the beginning of every intercepted message, before it is transmitted around the ECHELON network, allowing analysts to recognize at which station the interception occurred.

New Zealand intelligence staff has been closely involved with the NSA's Yakima station since 1981, when NSA pushed the GCSB to contribute to a project targeting Japanese embassy communications. Since then, all five UKUSA agencies have been responsible for monitoring diplomatic cables from all Japanese posts within the same segments of the globe they are assigned for general UKUSA monitoring.3 Until New Zealand's integration into ECHELON with the opening of the Waihopai station in 1989, its share of the Japanese communications was intercepted at Yakima and sent unprocessed to the GCSB headquarters in Wellington for decryption, translation, and writing into UKUSA-format intelligence reports (the NSA provides the codebreaking programs).

"COMMUNICATION" THROUGH SATELLITES The next component of the ECHELON system intercepts a range of satellite communications not carried by Intelsat.In addition to the UKUSA stations targeting Intelsat satellites, there are another five or more stations homing in on Russian and other regional communications satellites. These stations are Menwith Hill in northern England; Shoal Bay, outside Darwin in northern Australia (which targets Indonesian satellites); Leitrim, just south of Ottawa in Canada (which appears to intercept Latin American satellites); Bad Aibling in Germany; and Misawa in northern Japan.

A group of facilities that tap directly into land-based telecommunications systems is the final element of the ECHELON system. Besides satellite and radio, the other main method of transmitting large quantities of public, business, and government communications is a combination of water cables under the oceans and microwave networks over land. Heavy cables, laid across seabeds between countries, account for much of the world's international communications. After they come out of the water and join land-based microwave networks they are very vulnerable to interception. The microwave networks are made up of chains of microwave towers relaying messages from hilltop to hilltop (always in line of sight) across the countryside. These networks shunt large quantities of communications across a country. Interception of them gives access to international undersea communications (once they surface) and to international communication trunk lines across continents. They are also an obvious target for large-scale
interception of domestic communications.

Because the facilities required to intercept radio and satellite communications use large aerials and dishes that are difficult to hide for too long, that network is reasonably well documented. But all that is required to intercept land-based communication networks is a building situated along the microwave route or a hidden cable running underground from the legitimate network into some anonymous building, possibly far removed. Although it sounds technically very difficult, microwave interception from space by United States spy satellites also occurs. *4 The worldwide network of facilities to intercept these communications is largely undocumented, and because New Zealand's GCSB does not participate in this type of interception, my inside sources

could not help either.

NO ONE IS SAFE FROM A MICROWAVE 

A 1994 expos of the Canadian UKUSA agency, Spyworld, co-authored by one of its former staff, Mike Frost, gave the first insights into how a lot of foreign microwaveinterception is done (see p. 18). It described UKUSA "embassy
collection" operations, where sophisticated receivers and processorsare secretly transported to their countries' overseas embassies in diplomatic bags and used to monitor various communications in foreign capitals. *5

Since most countries' microwave networks converge on the capital city, embassy buildings can be an ideal site. Protected by diplomatic privilege, they allow interception in the heart of the target country. *6 The Canadian embassy collection was requested by the NSA to fill gaps in the American and British embassy collection operations, which were still occurring in many capitals around the world when Frost left the CSE in 1990. Separate sources in Australia have revealed that the DSD also engages in embassy collection. *7 On the territory of UKUSAnations, the interception of land-based telecommunications appears to be done at special secret intelligence facilities. The US, UK, and Canada are geographically well placed to intercept the large amounts of the world's communications that cross their territories.

The only public reference to the Dictionary system anywhere in the world was in relation to one of these facilities, run by the GCHQ in central London. In 1991, a former British GCHQ official spoke anonymously to Granada Television's World in Action about the agency's abuses of power. He told the program about an anonymous red brick building at 8 Palmer Street where GCHQ secretly intercepts every telex which passes into, out of, or through London, feeding them into powerful computers with a program known as "Dictionary." The operation,
he explained, is staffed by carefully vetted British Telecom people: "It's nothing to do with national security. It's because it's not legal to take every single telex. And they take everything: the embassies, all the business deals, even the birthday greetings, they take everything. They feed it into the Dictionary." *8 What the documentary did not reveal is that Dictionary is not just a British system; it is UKUSA-wide.

Similarly, British researcher Duncan Campbell has described how the US Menwith Hill station in Britain taps directly into the British Telecom microwave network, which has actually been designed with several major microwave links converging on an isolated tower connected underground into the station. *9

The NSA Menwith Hill station, with 22 satellite terminals and more than 4.9 acres of buildings, is undoubtedly the largest and most powerful in the UKUSA network. Located in northern England, several thousand kilometers from the Persian Gulf, it was awarded the NSA's "Station of the Year" prize for 1991 after its role in the Gulf War. Menwith Hill assists in the interception of microwave communications in another way as well, by serving as a ground station for US electronic spy satellites. These intercept microwave trunk lines and short range communications such as military radios and walkie talkies. Other ground stations where the satellites' information is fed into the global network are Pine Gap, run by the CIA near Alice Springs in central Australia and the Bad Aibling station in Germany. *10 Among them, the various stations and operations making up the ECHELON network tap into all the main components of the world's telecommunications networks. All of them, including a separate network of stations that intercepts long distance radio communications, have their own Dictionary computers connected into ECHELON.

In the early 1990s, opponents of the Menwith Hill station obtained large quantities of internal documents from the facility. Among the papers was a reference to an NSA computer system called Platform. The integration of all the UKUSA station computers into ECHELON probably
occurred with the introduction of this system in the early 1980s. James Bamford wrote at that time about a new worldwide NSA computer network codenamed Platform "which will tie together 52 separate computer systems used throughout the world. Focal point, or `host environment,' for the massive network will be the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade. Among those included in Platform will be the British SIGINT organization, GCHQ." *11

LOOKING IN THE DICTIONARY 

The Dictionary computers are connected via highly encrypted UKUSA communications that link back to computer data bases in the five agency headquarters. This is where all the intercepted messages selected by the Dictionaries end up. Each morning
the specially "indoctrinated" signals intelligence analysts in Washington, Ottawa,Cheltenham, Canberra, and Wellington log on at their computer terminals and enter the Dictionary system. After keying in their security passwords, they reach a directory that lists the different categories of intercept available in the data bases, each with a four-digit code. For instance, 1911 might be Japanese diplomatic cables from Latin America (handled by the Canadian CSE), 3848 might be political communications from and about Nigeria, and 8182 might be any messages about distribution of encryption technology.

They select their subject category, get a "search result" showing how many messages have been caught in the ECHELON net on that subject, and then the day's work begins. Analysts scroll through screen after screen of intercepted faxes, e-mail messages, etc. and, whenever a message appears worth reporting on, they select it from the rest to work on. If it is not in English, it is translated and then written into the standard format of intelligence reports produced anywhere
within the UKUSA network either in entirety as a "report," or as a summary or "gist."

"We feel we can no longer remain silent regarding that which we regard to be gross malpractice and negligence within the establishment in which we operate."
-British intelligence operatives- 

INFORMATION CONTROL 

A highly organized system has been developed to control what is being searched for by each station and who can have access to it. This is at the heart of ECHELON operations and works as follows.

The individual station's Dictionary computers do not simply have a long list of keywords to search for. And they do not send all the information into some huge database that participating agencies can dip into as they wish. It is much more controlled.

The search lists are organized into the same categories, referred to by the four digit numbers. Each agency decides its own categories according to its responsibilities for producing intelligence for the network. For GCSB, this means South Pacific governments, Japanese diplomatic, Russian Antarctic activities, and so on.

The agency then works out about 10 to 50 keywords for selection in each category. The keywords include such things as names of people, ships, organizations, country names, and subject names. They also include the known telex and fax numbers and Internet addresses of any individuals, businesses, organizations, and government offices that are targets. These are generally written as part of the message text and so are easily recognized by the Dictionary computers.

The agencies also specify combinations of keywords to help sift out communications of interest. For example, they might search for diplomatic cables containing both the words "Santiago" and "aid," or cables containing the word "Santiago" but not "consul" (to avoid the masses of routine consular communications). It is these sets of words and numbers (and combinations), under a particular category, that get placed in the Dictionary computers. (Staff in the five agencies called Dictionary Managers enter and update the keyword search lists for each
agency.)

The whole system, devised by the NSA, has been adopted completely by the other agencies. The Dictionary computers search through all the incoming messages and, whenever they encounter one with any of the agencies' keywords, they select it. At the same time, the computer automatically notes technical details such as the time and place of interception on the piece of intercept so that analysts reading it, in whichever agency it is going to, know where it came from, and what it is. Finally, the computer writes the four-digit code (for the category
with the keywords in that message) at the bottom of the message's text. This is important. It means that when all the intercepted messages end up together in the database at one of the agency headquarters, the messages on a particular subject can be located again. Later, when the analyst using the Dictionary system selects the four- digit code for the category he or she wants, the computer simply searches through all the messages in the database for the ones which
have been tagged with that number.

This system is very effective for controlling which agencies can get what from the global network because each agency only gets the intelligence out of the ECHELON system from its own numbers. It does not have any access to the raw intelligence coming out of the system to the other agencies. For example, although most of the GCSB's intelligence production is primarily to serve the UKUSA alliance, New Zealand does not have access to the whole ECHELON network. The access it does have is strictly controlled. A New Zealand intelligence officer explained: "The agencies can all apply for numbers on each other's Dictionaries. The hardest to deal with are the Americans. ... [There are] more hoops to jump through, unless it is in their interest, in which case they'll do it for you."

There is only one agency which, by virtue of its size and role within the alliance, will have access to the full potential of the ECHELON system the agency that set it up. What is the system used for? Anyone listening to official "discussion" of intelligence could be forgiven for thinking that, since the end of the Cold War, the key targets of the massive UKUSA intelligence machine are terrorism, weapons proliferation, and economic intelligence. The idea that economic intelligence has become very important, in particular, has been carefully cultivated by intelligence agencies intent on preserving their post-Cold War budgets. It has become an article of faith in much discussion of intelligence. However, I have found no evidence that these are now the primary concerns of organizations such as NSA.

QUICKER INTELLIGENCE, SAME MISSION 

A different story emerges after examining very detailed information I have been given about the intelligence New Zealand collects for the UKUSA allies and detailed descriptions of what is in the yards-deep intelligence reports New
Zealand receives from its four allies each week. There is quite a lot of intelligence collected about potential terrorists, and there is quite a lot of economic intelligence, notably intensive monitoring of all the countries participating in GATT negotiations. But by far, the main priorities of the intelligence alliance continue to be political and military intelligence to assist the larger allies to pursue their interests around the world. Anyone and anything the particular governments are concerned about can become a target.

With capabilities so secret and so powerful, almost anything goes. For example, in June 1992, a group of current "highly placed intelligence operatives" from the British GCHQ spoke to the London Observer: "We feel we can no longer remain silent regarding that which we regard to be gross malpractice and negligence within the establishment in which we operate." They gave as examples GCHQ interception of three charitable organizations, including Amnesty International and Christian Aid. As the Observer reported: "At any time GCHQ is able to home in on their communications for a routine target request," the GCHQ source said. In the case of phone taps the procedure is known as Mantis. With telexes it is called Mayfly. By keying in a code relating to Third World aid, the source was able to demonstrate telex "fixes" on the three organizations. "It is then possible to key in a trigger word which enables us to home in on the telex communications whenever that word appears," he said. "And we can read a pre-determined number of characters either side of the keyword."12 Without actually naming it, this was a fairly precise description of how the ECHELON Dictionary system works. Again, what was not revealed in the publicity was that this is a UKUSA-wide system. The design of ECHELON means that the interception of these organizations could have occurred anywhere in the network, at any station where the GCHQ had requested that the four-digit code covering Third World aid be placed.

Note that these GCHQ officers mentioned that the system was being used for telephone calls. In New Zealand, ECHELON is used only to intercept written communications: fax, e-mail, and telex. The reason, according to intelligence staff, is that the agency does not have the staff to
analyze large quantities of telephone conversations.

Mike Frost's expos of Canadian "embassy collection" operations described the NSA computers they used, called Oratory, that can "listen" to telephone calls and recognize when keywords are spoken. Just as we can recognize words spoken in all the different tones and accents we encounter, so too, according to Frost, can these computers. Telephone calls containing keywords are automatically extracted from the masses of other calls and recorded digitally on magnetic tapes for analysts back at agency headquarters. However, high volume voice recognition computers will be technically difficult to perfect, and my New Zealand-based sources could not confirm that this capability exists. But, if or when it is perfected, the implications would be
immense. It would mean that the UKUSA agencies could use machines to search through all the international telephone calls in the world, in the same way that they do written messages. If this equipment exists for use in embassy collection, it will presumably be used in all the stations throughout the ECHELON network. It is yet to be confirmed how extensively telephone communications are being targeted by the ECHELON stations for the other agencies.

The easiest pickings for the ECHELON system are the individuals, organizations, and governments that do not use encryption. In New Zealand's area, for example, it has proved especially useful against already vulnerable South Pacific nations which do not use any coding,
even for government communications (all these communications of New Zealand's neighbors are supplied, unscreened, to its UKUSA allies). As a result of the revelations in my book, there is currently a project under way in the Pacific to promote and supply publicly available encryption software to vulnerable organizations such as democracy movements in countries with repressive governments. This is one practical way of curbing illegitimate uses of the ECHELON
capabilities.

One final comment. All the newspapers, commentators, and "well placed sources" told the public that New Zealand was cut off from US intelligence in the mid-1980s. That was entirely untrue. The intelligence supply to New Zealand did not stop, and instead, the decade since has been a period of increased integration of New Zealand into the US system. Virtually everything the equipment, manuals, ways of operating, jargon, codes, and so on, used in the GCSB continues to be imported entirely from the larger allies (in practice, usually the NSA). As with the Australian and Canadian agencies, most of the priorities continue to come from the US, too.

The main thing that protects these agencies from change is their secrecy. On the day my book arrived in the book shops, without prior publicity, there was an all-day meeting of the intelligence bureaucrats in the prime minister's department trying to decide if they could prevent it from being distributed. They eventually concluded, sensibly, that the political costs were too high. It is understandable that they were so agitated.

Throughout my research, I have faced official denials or governments refusing to comment on publicity about intelligence activities. Given the pervasive atmosphere of secrecy and stonewalling, it is always hard for the public to judge what is fact, what is speculation, and what is paranoia. Thus, in uncovering New Zealand's role in the NSA-led alliance, my aim was to provide so much detail about the operations the technical systems, the daily work of individual staff members, and even the rooms in which they work inside intelligence facilities that readers could feel confident that they were getting close to the truth. I hope the information leaked by intelligence staff in New Zealand about UKUSA and its systems such as ECHELON will help lead to change.

SOURCE: CAQ Covert Action Quarterly

Menwith Hill, England
ECHELON Station
+54 00' 37.81", -1 41' 23.50"
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(Click on map for larger view)
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News Articles on ECHELON

EU releases Echelon spying report

It exists and the UK has a lot of explaining to do
By Kieren McCarthy
Published Thursday 6th September 2001 17:04 GMT

The report by the European Union into the Echelon spying network, released yesterday, has concluded that not only does the network exist but that it can prove its existence. It also calls on the UK to pull out of the system - jointly run by the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia - to prove its commitment to the EU.

The huge 142-page report (with another 54 pages in annexes) is available here, but make sure you put enough paper in the printer first.

SOURCE: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/09/06/eu_releases_echelon_spying_report/(Archived)

This is how we know Echelon exists
European Parliament report
By Kieren McCarthy
Published Friday 14th September 2001 13:45 GMT

The European Parliament published its report into the Echelon spying system last week in which it concluded it did exist, was against the law and that the UK had a lot of explaining to do.

We've sifted through about 100 of the 194 pages and decided that since no one had yet to officially admit its existence, you may be interested in how the European Parliament decided it was definitely out there.

The report admits from the outset that the existence of Echelon can only be proved by gathering together as many clues as possible so that it remains the only possible explanation. Since we are talking about an extremely secretive spying mechanism run by some of the most secretive (and powerful) organisations in the world, this is the only method at our disposal.

The report used three basic routes to gathering the clues together. One, physical evidence - all the listening stations dotted about the globe. Two, unclassified documents and other bits of information from the military, NSA and other bodies that run the system. And lastly, the testimony of investigative journalists who have concentrated on Echelon - including Duncan Campbell and Nicky Hager - and former employees of the security services.

SOURCE: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/09/14/this_is_how_we_know/(Archived) 

CIA patching ECHELON shortcomings
Relax, it's for your own good, and the sake of your children
By Thomas C Greene in Washington DC
Published Tuesday 6th March 2001 07:47 GMT

A core objection to paranoid rants regarding the US National Security Agency (NSA) electronic eavesdropping apparatus called ECHELON is the simple observation that spooks trying to use it are literally buried in an avalanche of white noise from which it's quite difficult to extract anything pertinent.

But now the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), no doubt with some assistance and guidance from NSA, is making strides towards cracking that little inconvenience.

The CIA's Office of Advanced Information Technology is developing a number of data-mining enhancements to make life easy for those who would eavesdrop on electronic communications, Reuters reports.

SOURCE: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/03/06/cia_patching_echelon_shortcomings/(Archived) 

News Reports

New Echelon Disclosures (WorldNetDaily, Mar. 27, 2000)
Massive eavesdropping scheme under the U.S.'s National Security Agency.  Also involved through a diplomatic construct known as the UKUSA Alliance are  Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The system is reputedly capable of recording every digital transmission relayed throughout the world each day.  Using "dictionary" computers, the system can search all the collected messages for keywords, easily and quickly identifying those messages with intelligence implications.

U.S. spying pays off for business (MSNBC, April 14, 2000)
While the U.S. government has long maintained that its intelligence agencies dont participate in industrial espionage, NBC News has learned that companies have benefited from Echelon, the long-rumored worldwide electronic spying network. Digging through mountains of testimony has revealed several references to U.S. intelligence gatherers specifically the Central Intelligence Agency using information its collected to indirectly help U.S. firms in their bids for international projects

Monitor This, Echelon (Wired News, Oct. 22, 1999)
Hackers conspire to jam Echelon electronic spying network by inundating the Internet with bogus 'suspect' messages.

Spying on the Spies (Wired News, May. 10, 1999)
European Parliament charges that Echelon was being used to funnel European government and industry secrets into US hands

Eavesdropping on Europe (Wired News, Sep. 30, 1998)
The lid is about to come off what is reputedly one of the most powerful, secretive, and extensive spy networks in history.

Ex-head of CIA says spying on Europe justified (Scottsman.com, Mar. 29, 2000)
Denies that the United States was giving secret information collected from European companies to their US competitors

Related Sites

Echelon.com - "You have critical data hidden in your facility; distributed throughout the city, country or the world; and no way to use it to improve your business; the solution you need is here; extend your view.

ECHELON: America's Secret Global Surveillance Network
Documents the nitty gritty of what, why, when, where and how.

Echelon Online Surveillance
Extensive up-to-date coverage quoting from several news sources.

Cyber-rights.org Echelon Watch

Echelon Watch - a project of the ACLU (of all things!)
Site designed to encourage public discussion of this potential threat to civil liberties, and to urge the governments of the world to protect our rights.

Project Echelon - chronological listing of news articles

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