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COMSAT Communications Satellite Cooperation

Until this decade the U.S.-based Comsat, Intelsat and Inmarsat organizations, in fact, shared nearly all international satellite traffic. So it was easy for NSA to eavesdropping on all communications to and from the United states. Less than 60 miles from Sugar Grove COMSAT runs a station in Etam, West Virginia, where more than half of the commercial, international satellite communication entering and leaving the US each day pass by. COMSAT provides international communications solutions via the global, 19-satellite INTELSAT system and 4-satellite Inmarsat satellite systems .

Through the INTELSAT system, COMSAT provides telecommunications, broadcast and digital networking services between the U.S. and the rest of the world. These services are used by Internet service providers, multinational corporations, telecommunications carriers and U.S. and foreign governments to extend their networks globally.

Inmarsat satellites lie in geostationary orbit 22,223 miles (35,786 km) out in space. Each satellite covers up to one third of the Earth's surface and is strategically positioned above one of the four ocean regions.

Calls are beamed up to the satellite and back down to Earth, where special gateway land earth stations re-route them through the appropriate local or international telephone network. COMSAT operates Earth Stations in each part of the world to route calls efficiently within each ocean region. Earth Stations are located in Santa Paula, California; Southbury, Connecticut; Ankara, Turkey; and Kuantan, Malaysia.

Sugar Grove Naval Communications Facility, near Sugar Grove, WV, may intercept Pacific INTELSAT/COMSAT satellite communications traffic routed through the COMSAT ground station at Etam, WV.

NSG station in Winter Harbor, Maine serves as an excellent platform from which to intercept signals to and from COMSATs Andover station, 125 miles to the west.

On the Westcost, COMSATs northern groundstation is situated in Brewster, near to Yakima, so from the Yakima Research Station the Pacific INTELSAT communications traffic can be intercepted.

The other west-coast station is in Jamesburg, California, not so far away from the Army Security Agency intercept station at Two Rock Ranch.

The international communications network with its limited gateways will probably always be easier to monitor than the large domestic networks like in the US. But the use of microwave and domestic satellites is increasing, and the construction of land lines is decreasing.


STOA Report by Duncan Campbell: Interception Capabilities 2000

James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1982,p222-228

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