posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 08:02 AM
Dead thread, so i'll steer it to a new direction. Here is a FAQ on echelon i wrote a few years ago (under a different nickname, for a different
Frequently Asked Questions: Echelon
Echelon. Do you recognize the word? Do you know what it is? What it does? Echelon is a system used by the United States National Security Agency (NSA)
to intercept and filter international communications passed via communications satellites. Read this FAQ and learn the basics of one of the largest
systems on the globe.
What is Echelon?
It is one part of a global surveillance system that is now over 50 years old. Other parts of the same system intercept messages from the Internet,
undersea cables, microwave links between cities,and radio transmissions or use orbiting satellites to monitor signals anywhere on the earth’s
Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are cooperating with the US in this project, and they also run their own “Echelon” type stations.
Sigint (Signal intelligence) stations are connected to each other, creating the world’s largest wide area network (WAN).
What does it do?
Echelon monitors and filters large portions of all satellite communications in the world. It analyses the data it gathers by comparing the data with a
“dictionary” containing keywords that reflect the current areas of interest. If matches are found, the system sends it to analysts who then make a
decision as to whether the intercepted information is valuable or not. Only about 1 communication in 1000 goes to a human analyst, and only 1 in a
million results in a report. ECHELON may intercept as many as 3 billion communications everyday, including phone calls, e-mail messages, Internet
downloads, satellite transmissions, and so on.
How does it obtain the data it analyses?
ECHELON collects data in several ways. Reports suggest it has massive ground based radio antennae to intercept satellite transmissions. In addition,
some sites reputedly are tasked with tapping surface traffic. These antennae reportedly are in the United States, Italy, England, Turkey, New Zealand,
Canada, Australia, and several other places.
Similarly, it is believed that ECHELON uses numerous satellites to catch “spillover” data from transmissions between cities. These satellites then
beam the information down to processing centers on the ground. The main centers are in the United States (near Denver), England (Menwith Hill),
Australia, and Germany.
Furthermore, it is believed that ECHELON has even used special underwater devices which tap into cables that carry phone calls across the seas.
According to published reports, American divers were able to install surveillance devices on the underwater cables. This same technique was used
against Soviet cables running from mainland Russia to Novaja Zemlija.
Who controls it?
Echelon is controlled by the NSA, Britain’s sigint agency GCHQ, and similar agencies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is unclear how much
control over echelon the individual governments of these countries have.
Is it the only system of its kind?
Many countries like China, Russia, and France, have similar but smaller systems. The European Union has Enfopol, which has some similar capabilities,
but Enfopol’s use is restricted to anti-organized crime operations only.
Why and when was it created?
The countries involved in Echelon coordinate their activities pursuant to the UKUSA agreement, which dates back to 1947. The original ECHELON system
dates back to 1971. However, its capabilities and priorities have expanded greatly since its formation, and the system is continually under
Why should I care about it?
ECHELON is a highly classified operation, conducted with little or no oversight by national parliaments or courts. Most of what is known comes from
whistleblowers and classified documents. The simple truth is that there is no way to know precisely what ECHELON is being used for.
However, there is evidence, much of which is circumstantial, that ECHELON (along with its British counterpart) has been engaged in significant
invasions of privacy. These alleged violations include secret surveillance of political organizations, such as Amnesty International. It has also been
reported that ECHELON has engaged in industrial espionage towards various private companies, such as Airbus Industries and Panavia, then has passed
information to their American competitors. It is unclear just how far Echelon’s activities have harmed private individuals.
Inside Echelon by Duncan Campbell
Several signal officers from FRDF