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  Report: Echelon

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What: A highly automated global system and surveillance network for processing data retrieved through interception of communication traffic from all over the world. In the days of the cold war, ECHELON's primary purpose was to keep an eye/ear on the U.S.S.R. In the wake of the fall of the U.S.S.R. ECHELON is officially said to being used to fight terrorism ann crimes, but it seems to be evident that the main focus lies in political and economic espionage.

When: ECHELON 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.

Who: It is coordinated by the NSA, with participation of the CIA, USAF, NSG, GCHQ, DSD, CSE, GCSB. It seems that NSA is the only "contractor" who has access to the whole of information, whereas the other participants only get a comparingly small portion of information.

Where: Headquarters of the ECHELON system are at Fort Meade in Maryland, which is the NSA Headquarter. The NSA operates many interception stations all over the world, with or without the knowledge of the host country.

How: Each station in the ECHELON network has computers that automatically search through millions of intercepted data for containing pre-programmed keywords or fax, telex and email addresses. Every word of every message is

automatically searched. Computers that can search for keywords have existed since at least the 1970s, but the ECHELON system has been designed to interconnect all these computers and allow the stations to function as components of an integrated whole.

The scale of the collection system was described by the former Director of the NSA, Vice Admiral William Studeman, in 1992 ( At that time the NSA's collection system generated about 2 million intercepted messages per hour. Of these, all but about 13,000 an hour were discarded. Of these about 2,000 met forwarding criteria, of which some 20 are selected by analysts, who then write 2 reports for further distribution. Therefore, in 1992 MenwithHillSation was intercepting 17.5 billion messages a year. Of these some 17.5 million may have been studied for analysis.

How much: ECHELON justifies obviousely multi-billion dollar expenses. But no detailed figures are available yet.

browse Report:
0   ECHELON Facts
+1   ECHELON Introduction
+2   ECHELON UKUSA Alliance
+3   ECHELON Timeline