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Kym Phan

Dr. Bruce Henderson

ENGL 100

November 20, 2006


      Espionage has been popularized by spy fiction and secret agent personas

in pop culture today. The success of James Bond, both in novel and motion

picture forms, and the prevalence of spy fiction highlight the concepts of

confidential information and intelligent mass surveillance.   These ideas and

“leaks” in the news have led to the uncovering of ECHELON, a massive

intelligence network designed to intercept and analyze telecommunications

signals worldwide.

      The ECHELON system is serviced by the UKUSA Community, a

partnership between five English-speaking nations, whose purpose is gathering

intelligence via signals provided via the network.   The alliance is led by the

United States and United Kingdom and includes Australia, Canada, and New

Zealand (Connolly). Each member of the alliance is allegedly responsible for

monitoring a specific area of the world (Richelson). The United States monitors

Latin America and Asia, while Britain monitors the Africa, western Russia and the

rest of Europe (Wikipedia). Canada watches northern Russia, Australia oversees

Indochina, Indonesia and mainland China, and New Zealand watches for

communications in the Pacific (Wikipedia).
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      The National Security Agency (NSA) is the largest U.S. government

communications-intelligence agency, responsible for the collection and analysis

of communication signals (National Security Agency). The NSA and UKUSA

organizations both cooperate in the operation of ECHELON’s network (EP

Report 59).

      The network’s name has been confirmed by a woman named Margaret

Newsham, who worked for Lockheed Martin, a primary aerospace manufacturer

for defense worldwide (EP Report 71). Margaret claims to have worked on the

parts of the ECHELON network software, which Lockheed actually called P415

(Elkjaer and Seeberg). The software programs were codenamed SILKWORTH

and SIRE, and the network contained an important surveillance satellite named

VORTEX (Elkjaer and Seeberg).         A job description containing the network’s

name as well as several of its integral program names have surfaced, confirming

Margaret’s claims (see: Figure 1).

      Former NSA employee, Wayne Madsen, confirms the existence of

ECHELON,      and   believes   that   the   U.S.   Government   uses    collected

communications to give US companies an advantage in world economic affairs

(EP Report 71). He further tells that the NSA collected and archived extensive

knowledge about Princess Diana because her campaign against land mines ran

against US policy (EP Report 71).

      ECHELON is rumored to have been created during the Cold War, where

intelligence agencies like the CIA and KGB played a major role in information
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gathering (Cold War). It is believed that ECHELON is still used today in the

search for terrorism, drug dealing plots and political and diplomatic intelligence

(Wikipedia).   The European Union, among other critics, are concerned with

ECHELON’s capabilities invading privacy and its potential to support large-scale

commercial theft. In fact, it was the elevation of public suspicion and concern

over the extent of espionage activity at the government level that commissioned

the 2001 European Parliament Report on ECHELON (EP Report 21).

      ECHELON is generally understood as having the ability to intercept

communications from a wide variety of medium: radio, satellite, cellular, and

fiber-optics (EP Report 30).      Satellite communications in the 1960’s has

decreased dramatically and has been displaced by communication over fiber

optics in the 21st century.    Consequently, this means that the majority of

communications cannot be intercepted via satellite, and that ECHELON must be

capable of intercepting communication via radio signals or by tapping cables.

This can be done by affixing intercept apparatus at stations where fiber optic

communications are switched, and interestingly, there have been reports of such

sites in the United States.   A series of computers process captured signals,

which have been programmed to search for key words, targeting specific words,

series of words or phrases, addresses, and even individual voices (Richelson).

In addition, ECHELON uses a number of databases containing key words

particular to each country (Richelson).
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       Little has been confirmed about the actual physical equipment in use by

the ECHELON system.          However, Mark Klein, a former AT&T employee,

revealed that an appliance designed to capture and analyze communication via

fiber optic (called Narus STA 6400) was installed in an SBC Communications

building (Klein and Pontoniere).     The equipment was supposedly installed in

Room 641A, which was previously occupied by AT&T before SBC purchased

AT&T. Room 641A (referred to as SG3 [Study Group 3] Secure Room by AT&T)

was rumored to be run for the NSA (Klein and Pontoniere).

       Another important and confirmed base of the ECHELON network is at

Menwith Hill, England. Originally a British Royal Air Force facility, Menwith Hill is

credited as being the largest intelligence-gathering ground station outside of the

US (Campbell and Melvern). Lists of other likely, possible and former stations

exist and give rise to the speculation of how vast and extensive the ECHELON

network really is.

       As a general understanding, government intelligence agencies are

restricted from spying on their own citizens, and such behavior would be viewed

as an invasion of privacy, however allegations exist that the UKUSA alliance

avoided the technical complications of these restrictions by having one country’s

intelligence agency spy on another citizens’ and then the two exchanging data

(EP Report 72).

       Although supporters of ECHELON stress that the system is merely

another method of capturing and sorting data (in line with scanners at the airport,
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or package tracking), adversaries are suspicious of political and industrial

espionage, and believe the U.S. Government is guilty of infringing on innocent

citizens’ privacy. The European Parliament Report supports the latter position

and made a suggestion to the American NSA in Europe:        Scale down your

activities, or be open and accountable for them.
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Figure 1 (
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                                   Works Cited

Connolly, P.J. “Echelon Finds a Foe.” Infoworld 11 June 2001: 62, MasterFILE

      Premier. EBSCO. Fullerton Coll. Lib., CA, 17 Nov. 2006.


Richelson, Jeffrey. “Desperately Seeking Signals.” Bulletin of the Atomic

      Scientists. Mar.-Apr. 2000: 47, eLibrary. ProQuest. Fullerton Coll. Lib.,

      CA, 17 Nov. 2006. <>.

“UKUSA.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 16 Nov. 2006.


National Security Agency. The Columbia Encyclopedia Online. Sixth edition. 15

      Nov. 2006 <>.

“Report on the Existence of a Global System for the Interception of Private and

      Commercial Communications (ECHELON Interception System).”

      European Parliament. 14 Nov. 2006


Elkjaer, Bo and Seeberg, Kenan. “Echelon was my baby – Interview with

      Margaret      Newsham.” 15 Nov. 2006 <>.

Cold War. The Columbia Encyclopedia Online. Sixth edition. 15 Nov. 2006


“ECHELON.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 16 Nov. 2006.

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Klein, Jeffrey and Pontoniere, Paolo. “Proposed Bills May Derail Wiretapping

      Lawsuits.” National Catholic Reporter. 2006. eLibrary. ProQuest.

      Fullerton Coll. Lib., CA. 18 Nov. 2006. <>.

Campbell, Duncan and Melvern, Linda. “America’s Big Ear on Europe.” New

Statesman. 06 Dec. 1999: 47, EBSCO. Fullerton Coll. Lib., CA, 17 Nov. 2006.


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