Report: Echelon

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The ECHELON project was designed and is coordinated by NSA to intercept ordinary e-mail, fax, telex and telephone communications throughout the global telecommunications networks. Its purpose is the surveillance of non-military targets, such as governments, organizations, businesses and individuals. The goal of the system is to intercept large quantities of communications and analyze the gathered data using sophisticated processing hard- and software to identify and extract messages of interest. The ECHELON processing equipment searches through huge amounts of intercepted communications for keywords. Those keywords contain concepts, names, locations, subjects, personal data of individuals,... The processing computers are known as ECHELON Dictionaries.

Without the investigative publications of James Bamford, Duncan Campbell, Nicky Hager, Jeffrey T. Richelson, William Burrows and others ECHELON would never have made its way to public notice and would have never led to alarming public opinion.

In 1948 the former alliance of USA, UK, Canada, Australia an New Zealand established in World War II was formalized into the UKUSA Signals and Intelligence agreement to aim primarily together against the former USSR, although reades of the agreement say, that it is definitely only signed by the United States and Britain. (Nicky Hager, Secret Power, New Zealand's role in the internatinal spy network, Craig Potton, 1996, p61)

The UKUSA nations also agreed to standardize their terminology, code words, intercept-handling procedures, and indoctrination oaths, for efficiency as well as security. NATO nations and other nations as Japan and Korea later signed on as third parties. Among the first and second parties there is a general agreement not to restrict data, but with the third parties the sharing is much less generous.

Now the functions have shifted to interception ranging from diplomatic communications, to industrial espionage. Keytargets are besides political and military intelligence, terrorism, weapons construction and proliferation and economic intelligence. Rumors are heard that the US intelligence agencies use their foreign stations also for monitoring their allies. It seems that the UKUSA alliance is maintaining around 120 known surveillance stations, some huge and some very small or even functioning fully automatically, but rumors go that the number of small SIGINT surveillance stations might also be as high as 4900.


>UK-US SIGINT co-operation began in 1940, during World War II close intelligence relationships also between other countries of the Commonwealth and the United States were formed. New Zealand f.e. was involved in submarine operations and served as basis for American troops fighting against Japan in the pacific. In Spring 1941 four representatives (two from the Navy and two from the Army) delivered a model of the Japanese PURPLE machine--used by Japan to encipher diplomatic communications to British codebreakers at Bletchley Park. In return, the British gave the U.S. representatives an assortment of advanced cryptological equipment, including the Marconi-Adcock high-frequency direction finder. (see p312 in James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1982). Meanwhile, it was agreed that the British would break Tokyo-London traffic while the Americans broke Tokyo-Washington traffic. The results of the U.S. codebreaking effort that were considered useful to Britain in its war with Germany were passed to London via the British ambassador in Washington.<

(Ronald Lewin, The American Magic: Codes, ciphers and the Defeat of Japan, New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1982, p46)

>U.S. entry into the war expanded the exchange of intercepted military traffic because of necessary arrangements for a coordinated attack on diplomatic traffic. Britain's production of such intelligence was labeled ULTRA.<

(Ronald Lewin, The American Magic: Codes, ciphers and the Defeat of Japan, New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1982, p47)

>Although ULTRA information was made available to U.S. and British military commanders via Special Liaison Units, the exact nature of its acquisition was initially obscured. It was not until April 1943 that the British revealed to U.S. military intelligence officials the secret--that Britain's codebreaking organization could break the ciphers produced by the German ENIGMA machine used for much of German military communications.< (James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1982, p314)

UK-US SIGINT co-operation was formalized on 17 May 1943 with the conclusion of the still-secret, and possibly still-active, BRUSA COMINT agreement. The complete text of BRUSA, including its appendices, was released by the National Security Agency (NSA) in November 1995. Text and appendices are published in Cryptologia, "The BRUSA Agreement of May 17, 1943," 21, no. 1 (Jan. 1997): p30-38. That agreement led to extensive cooperation between the US Army's SIGINT Agency and the British Code and Cipher School.

>The BRUSA Agreement established high-level cooperation on SIGINT matters and covered the exchange of personnel, joint regulations for the handling of ULTRA material, and procedures for its distribution. The joint regulations included strict security provisions that applied to all British and U.S. recipients of ULTRA material.<(James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1982, p315)

>Along with the increased cooperation between Britain and the United States, there was increased involvement by the Anglo-Saxon members of the British

Commonwealth--Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--in a wide variety of intelligence activities. U.S.-Canadian cooperation began in October 1941, when the Canadians offered the Federal Communications Commission free access to the product of Canadian monitoring activities. In return, the United States provided Canada with technical direction-finding data that were "invaluable for pinpointing the location of a transmitter." < (Bob Elliot, Scarlet to Green: Canadian Army Intelligence 1903-1963, Toronto, Canadian Military Intelligence Association, 1982, p461)

>Canadian DF stations subsequently made significant contributions to the Allied North Atlantic SIGINT/ocean surveillance network. The Canadian codebreaking agency was also successful in intercepting and decoding German espionage control messages to and from agents in South America, Canada, Hamburg and Lisbon. In addition, messages to and from the Vichy delegation in Ottawa were intercepted and decoded. Further, the peculiarities of radio wave propagation resulted in Canadian monitoring facilities being able to intercept military transmissions originating in Europe that were inaccessible to equipment based in Britain.< (F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom, and R.C. Knight, British Intelligence in the Second World War Volume 2, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981, p. 551ff)

>In addition to its UKUSA participation, Canada's SIGINT relationship to the United States is defined by the CANUS agreement. On September 15, 1950, Canada and the United States exchanged letters formally recognizing the "Security Agreement between Canada and the United States of America" (which was followed exactly two months later by the "Arrangement for Exchange of Information between the U.S., U.K. and Canada'').< (Jeffrey T. Richelson, The U.S. Intelligence Community, Westview Press, 4th ed., 1999, p273)

>It was with respect to Japan, however, that SIGINT cooperation among all five nations reached its highest level. Monitoring stations in Canada, particularly the major one at Halifax, gathered large quantities of coded Japanese transmissions. In April 1942, a combined Allied signals intelligence agency for the Pacific, the Central Bureau of the Allied Intelligence Bureau, was activated in Melbourne with a U.S. Chief and an Australian Deputy Chief.< (Jeffrey T. Richelson, The U.S. Intelligence Community, Westview Press, 4th ed., 1999, p267)

>The extent of cooperation is particularly highlighted in the case of Australian intercept stations. There was an Australian Air Force intercept station at Darwin, a U.S. Army radio intercept station in Townsville, a Royal Australian Navy monitoring station at Darwin, and a British post in Brisbane for the interception and distribution of Japanese radio communications. Additionally, a Canadian Special Wireless Group arrived in Australia on May 18, 1945 to take over the task of intercepting and analyzing Japanese military Morse code signals.< (Bob Elliot, Scarlet to Green: Canadian Army Intelligence 1903-1963, Toronto, Canadian Military Intelligence Association, 1982, p385)

>The intelligence relationship among Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States that was forged during World War II did not end with the war. Rather, it became formalized and grew stronger. In 1946 a US Liaison Office was set up in London and efforts for joint exchange operations in the beginning Cold War started. It was agreed that solved material was to be exchanged between the two countries.< (Ronald Clark, The Man Who Broke Purple, Boston, Little Brown, 1977, p208)

>1947 saw an event that set the stage for post-World War II signals intelligence cooperation: the formulation and acceptance of the UKUSA

Agreement, also known as the UK-USA Security Agreement or the "Secret Treaty." The primary aspect of the agreement was the division of SIGINT collection

responsibilities among the First Party (the United States) and the Second Parties (Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand.< (Jeffrey T. Richelson, The U.S. Intelligence Community, Westview Press, 4th ed., 1999, p267)

>The UKUSA relationship (and its SIGINT aspect) is more than an agreement to coordinate separately conducted intelligence activities and share the intelligence collected. Rather, the relationship is cemented by the presence of U.S. facilities on British, Canadian, and Australian territory and by joint operations within and outside UKUSA territory and, in the case of Australia, of U.K. and U.S. staff at all DSD facilities.< (Desmond Ball, A Suitable Peace of Real Estate: American Installations in Australia Sydney: Hale & Iremonger, 1980, p40)

>In addition to specifying SIGINT collection responsibilities, the Agreement also concerns access to the collected intelligence and security arrangements for the handling of data. Standardized code words (e.g., UMBRA for signals intelligence, VIPRA, TRINE), security agreements that all employees of the respective SIGINT agencies must sign, and procedures for storing and disseminating code word material are all part of the implementation of the Agreement.< (Duncan Campbell, "The Threat of the Electronic Spies," New Statesman, February 2, 1979)

The liaison and cooperation established with the BRUSA, UKUSA and CANUS Agreements during the 1940s were reinforced by William F. Friedman (the "dean of cryptology") during the 1950s and continued to solidify during the 1960s and 1970s.

browse Report:
-2   ECHELON Facts
-1   ECHELON Introduction
0   ECHELON UKUSA Alliance
+1   ECHELON Timeline
+2   ECHELON UKUSA Signals Intelligence Agreement Partners
+3   ECHELON Other involved countries