by Yorkshire CND
"No-one concerned about civil liberties can ignore
Despite many attempts to get answers to questions, it is quite clear
that Menwith Hill is not accountable to MPs and therefore not
accountable to the British people."
Alice Mahon MP
click image to
It’s the most secret US base in Britain
It’s unaccountable, unlawful and undemocratic
It’s integral to US plans to fight in and through space
It’s the world’s largest spy base and it’s getting bigger
The Menwith Hill spy base near Harrogate in North Yorkshire,
England, is the largest electronic monitoring station in the world.
Run by the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States, it
is one of a global network of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) bases,
which monitors the world’s communications and relays information to NSA HQ at Fort Meade in Maryland, USA.
The NSA was set up by Presidential decree in 1952 without any debate
in the US Congress. Until a few years ago, the existence of the NSA
was a secret and its charter and any mention of its duties are still
The American people know very little about it - and they know even
less about Menwith Hill.
Map of the Base area (from
streetmap.com - arrow points to main
Aerial photo of the base (from
MENWITH HILL - is listening … International telecommunications,
including private telephone calls, faxes and e-mails are intercepted
from the UK, Europe, Middle-East, North Africa and the former Soviet
Union. These are monitored looking for ’key words’, searching for
military, diplomatic and commercial information useful to the United
States. In 1997 a European Parliament report made it clear that
civil liberties are threatened by the work of the NSA at Menwith
Hill. Information collected at Menwith Hill goes directly to Fort
Meade, Maryland in the United States. The British government is
given selected information on a ’need-to-know’ basis via GCHQ,
Cheltenham, who also have some employees working at Menwith Hill.
MENWITH HILL - integral part of US star wars plans … There are no
missiles at Menwith Hill but the base plays a crucial role in any
global conflict. It received an award for the part it played in
’desert Storm during the Gulf War in 1991. Menwith Hill’s ongoing
expansion means it is now able to transmit and receive
communications and photographic images from space. This will help US
Space Command in its mission to see and hear everything on the
planet and enable laser weapons to be able to reach anywhere on the
earth within a target of about six feet. It will also play a crucial
part in US plans for a missile defence system by relaying the
information gathered by the Space-Based Infra-Red satellite systems
back to the US.
MENWITH HILL - ask no questions, get no answers … The American
authorities largely refuse to answer questions, give out information
or allow reporters, MPs or MEPs on to the base. Answers are refused
to many of the questions that MPs ask about Menwith Hill in the
House of Commons.
MENWITH HILL - keeps on growing … The number of
golfballs which cover the satellite dishes) continues to increase.
In 2002 there were 30 radomes as well as large numbers of buildings
and aerials, an 8’ high security fence, infra-red CCTV cameras and
coils of razor wire around the base. Menwith Hill lies within, but
officially excluded from, an Area of Outstanding Beauty. Although a
token planning application has to be submitted for developments at
the base, the local authority has no power to refuse permission or
MENWITH HILL - The Campaign to close it … From the beginning, many
people have worked to close the base. There have been vigils,
demonstrations, peace camps, non-violent blockades and actions
inside the base, letters to the press and radio and TV coverage.
Action through the courts has successfully challenged the military
land byelaws at the base. The Campaign for the Accountability of
American Bases (CAAB) evolved from the original mixed campaign and
since 1993 there has also been a women-only camp outside the base on
the A59. There is a regular Quaker meeting for worship on the first
Saturday of every month and Yorkshire Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament has also organized large demonstrations outside the base
as well as producing flyers and briefing papers on the base and
We will continue to protest against Menwith Hill’s
accountability; its promotion of the arms trade and war; its
violation of local, national and international law; its abuse of
democracy and civil liberties; and its crucial role in US plans to
dominate earth and space with nuclear and military technology.
Photo by Craig Stennett for CAAB
The Menwith Hill spy base (previously referred to as the
Field Station), near Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England
(see below maps), is not a US missile base, an
Early Warning Station or a decoy to
divert attention from nearby Forest Moor Royal Navy Communications
Neither is it run by extra-terrestrials zapping earthlings
with low frequency radio waves to control their minds, nor is it a
breeding ground for ’killer bees’ - although all these suggestions
have been made at some time or another by various visitors who see
the large white balls spread over the Yorkshire Dales.
Menwith Hill is actually the largest electronic monitoring station
in the world.
It is one of a global network of Signals Intelligence
(SIGINT) bases run by the US
National Security Agency (NSA) , which
monitors the world’s communications and relays information to NSA HQ
at Fort Meade in Maryland, USA.
The NSA was set up by Presidential
decree in 1952 without any debate in the US Congress.
Until a few
years ago, the existence of the NSA was a secret and its charter and
any mention of its duties are still classified. It does have a Web
site however, in which it describes itself as being "responsible for
the signals intelligence and communications security activities of
the US government".
In the year 2000 Menwith Hill employed more than 1,800 personnel.
recent parliamentary question  revealed that, as of 26 April
2000 , there were 415 US military, 989 US civilians (from defense
contractors like Lockheed Martin ), 5 UK military and 392 UK
civilian personnel (excluding those from the UK’s Government
Communications Headquarters - GCHQ) employed there.
The numbers of GCHQ staff,
"were withheld under exemption 1 of the Code of Practice
on Access to Government Information."
Work goes on there round the
clock inside buildings some of which are "hardened" and/or
electronically shielded. Communications are intercepted and analyzed
mainly from Europe, Russia, the Middle East and North Africa.
Currently, the base is under the American command of Colonel
Randolph Roberts. Squadron Leader Humphrey Vincent is the Senior RAF
officer; known as the RAF Liaison Officer (there is one token
commander allocated to all ’RAF’ - USAF - bases) he is a token
presence although according to the Ministry of Defense (MoD) he is
responsible for "general oversight" of the base.
The land at Menwith Hill is owned, in lieu of the Crown, by the
British Ministry of Defense, who allow the US government to use it.
The US Armed Forces and British War Office signed an initial
agreement concerning the land on 11 December 1951.
provided for the land to be acquired and stipulated that the US
"remain in occupation until this agreement, unless otherwise
excepted, is either terminated or modified."
The ’security of tenure’ agreement was renewed every 21 years until
1997 when it was not renewed as it was deemed by the UK government
not to be necessary.
In 1954 the War Department compulsorily
purchased Nessfield House and Farm and the land at Rushfield Farm
[the house and yard on the South-west corner of the base are still
privately owned and the MoD leases the farm land back to the farmer]
and construction work started on Field Station 8613 in 1955.
January 1957 it was named the 13th USASA (US Army Security Agency)
Field Station and the name Menwith Hill (meaning "stoney field" in
14th century English) became operational in 1959 .
It now covers
over 560 acres of land.
The base is guarded by UK Ministry of
Defense Police who are paid
for and under the operational control of the Americans and is now
enclosed by an alarmed security fence topped with razor wire and
with CCTV cameras mounted at regular intervals along it.
two large operations blocks and many satellite dishes inside white radomes (’golf balls’).
Initially operations focused on monitoring
international cable and microwave communications passing through
In the 1960s Menwith Hill was one of the first sites in the
world to receive early IBM computers, which the NSA used to
scrutinize intercepted but unenciphered telex messages. Since then:
"… Menwith Hill has sifted the private international messages,
telegrams, and telephone calls of citizens, corporations or
governments to select information of political, military or economic
value to the United States… Officially it is a US Department of
Defense communications station…
The British Ministry of Defense
describes it as a "communications relay centre." Like all good
cover stories, this has a strong element of truth to it.
real question is: whose communications system… [until 1974] Menwith Hill’s Sigint specialty is evidently the interception of International
Leased Carrier signals, the international communications links run
by civil agencies - the Post, Telegraph and Telephone ministries of
eastern and western European countries, and US corporations like ITT
and RCA ...". 
Steeplebush II Building - Photo by Craig Stennett (phone
The NSA took over Menwith Hill in 1966 . In the 1960s coaxial cables
were run from the base to the nearby Hunters Stones Post Office
tower which is part of the UK microwave network carrying
long-distance telephone calls.
This link was equivalent to at least
32,000 telephone lines  and was upgraded in 1992 when a
connection was made to the telephone network by BT installing fibre
optic cables that can carry the equivalent of over 100,000
simultaneous telephone calls .
The high capacity link with
Hunters Stones was employed in 1975 when satellite interception
began . BT state that the cables were connected directly to the
US via undersea cable, and did not link to other parts of the
The station commander around that time (Albert Braeuninger) described the link as,
"purely a communications link. We
only use Hunters Stones power as a customer of the Post Office."
Menwith Hill Base from satellite picture and plan of security fence
supplied by Harrogate Planning Office - details supplied by Anne Lee
and described by Duncan Campbell .
In 1984, a $25 million extension to Menwith Hill Station known as STEEPLEBUSH was completed.
New communications facilities and
buildings for STEEPLEBUSH were constructed worth £7.4 million. The
expansion plan included a 50,000 square foot extension to the
Operations Building and new generators to provide 5 Megawatts of
The purpose of the new construction was to cater for an
’expanded mission’ of satellite surveillance and to provide a new
(satellite) earth terminal system to support the classified systems
at the site. With another $132 million being spent on special
monitoring equipment, this section of the Menwith Hill base alone
cost almost $160 million dollars. The THISTLE building (40,000 sq ft
and $8.3 million) was added later in 1988 .
In 1993 an 83,000 square foot building (STEEPLEBUSH II - controlling
the receivers GT6 and GT7) was also added. Costing $26 million,
there are indications that this building is ’hardened’.
Later still CASTLEMAINE was added which controls the receivers GT8 & GT9, known
as GRAPNEL , which forms the European Ground Relay link for the
Space Based Infra Red System (SBIRS) of satellites.
Menwith Hill received an award for its part in "Desert Storm" during
the Gulf War - a fact revealed in the in-house magazine "Station
Break" which reported that the Chief of Station, William E. Kennedy,
had collected a ’Director’s Unit Award’ for support to the ’Desert
Shield/Desert Storm’ operation.
In 1998 a 3m high heavy-duty weld-mesh security fence, with a razor
wire overhang and ’anti-tank trap’ was erected around the Operations
Area and Antenna Field.
Other systems present at MHS and shown in
the figure above include:
Man Tech International - technical support for Ops provided by Loral
’Dustpan’ before Loral Space Systems Inc merged with
Lockheed-Martin. Man agement Tech nology runs the MOSAIC contract (Menwith
Ops Systems Analysis & Interface Connection) which includes antenna
maintenance and also PMEL (Precision Measurement Engineering
SATCOM - Satellite Communications for the US Armed Forces
Communications, run by the US Army’s 128th Signal Company - has 3 radomes on the west side of the base but is not part of the Menwith
Hill command structure.
Over 100 antenna masts in Rhombic arrays;
(High-Frequency Direction Finding) circular antennae and
Jetsams - codename for 6 diesel generators producing 10.6 MegaWatts.
Battery chargers connected to Jetsams are used to charge the
uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for the operational electronic
The main operational activity of Menwith Hill is the collection of
signals intelligence (SIGINT) from national and international
communications systems for the USA.
All telecommunications traffic
to and from Europe and passing through Britain can be intercepted at
the base, including private telephone calls, faxes, emails and other
communications. Much of the information is collected, processed and
relayed back to the United States automatically.
Long distance national and international communications are conveyed
by cables, microwave radio links, and satellites. All forms of
modern communications: telephony, television, fax, computer links
and the Internet are carried in this way. Companies such as BT
install and provide high capacity national and international links
used for these purposes and each is subject to interception.
long distance communications are still conveyed by traditional high
frequency (HF) radio systems. Except for domestic mobile radio
systems, this traffic is predominantly but not exclusively military.
A great deal of this information comes from spy satellites. The
importance of MHS to US intelligence activities has recently been
emphasized by the closure of other UK stations run by the NSA, and
by its new designation as a Regional Sigint Operations Centre (RSOC)
which is responsible for running remote, automated
Menwith Hill was first established to intercept traditional radio
signals, but this is now only a small part of its activities which
are conducted under two systems - RUNWAY OPERATIONS and SPECIAL
The primary targets are Europe, northern Africa and
western Asia, because satellites positioned to provide
communications in these regions are not visible from the United
States - but they are from Menwith Hill.
Menwith Hill Base from satellite picture and plan of security fence
supplied by Harrogate Planning Office - details supplied by Anne Lee
and described by Duncan Campbell .
1.- The RUNWAY OPERATIONS (RO) system - radomes GT1 - GT7 on the map.
Established in 1979 , this system (now called OPERATIONS & PLANS -
OP ) uses specially designed satellites stationed over certain
target areas to intercept long distance microwave radio
Using satellites positioned over the Equator, RUNWAY
intercepts radio relay links between cities in Eurasia and relays
them back to Menwith Hill. SILKWORTH is the name for the computer
collection and processing equipment housed in 36D.
Menwith Hill controls satellites positioned over the equator over
target areas to intercept long distance microwave radio
communications between cities in Eurasia. Operators at Menwith Hill
can monitor messages and conversations passing between companies and
individuals within, say, Jordan or the Ukraine.
messages and conversations from different starting places, but being
conveyed along the same route, can also be intercepted.
can be directed to intercept particular links and relay the
information back to Earth where they are sorted and processed at Menwith Hill. Those signals that satisfy specific criteria are
selected and passed on. All forms of communications are intercepted
RUNWAY runs east and west across the south edge of Menwith and is
used to receive information from the geosynchronous VORTEX
satellites. The first of these satellites, originally named CHALET ,
was launched in June 1978. In 1982, the NSA obtained approval and
funding to expand to operate four VORTEX satellites simultaneously.
The STEEPLEBUSH operations centre was constructed to process the
data and is connected to GT1- GT4 while GT5 connects to THISTLE (in
a project called MAGISTRAND ) and GT6 to STEEPLEBUSH II (as project
RUTLEY which links to a new network of Sigint satellites launched in
1994 and 1995 ).
After publication of the name VORTEX in 1987 the satellites were
Around 1988 the UK abandoned plans to orbit its
own Sigint Satellite (ZIRCON - exposed by Duncan Campbell in 1987)
and instead purchased for around £500 million some capacity on the
MERCURY satellite constellation which staff from GCHQ at Menwith
assist in tasking and operating.
Not many Sigint satellite details have come to light since 1990,
although systems will have been expanded.
Ground links were
constructed at Menwith Hill for a new network of Sigint satellites (RUTLEY)
launched in 1994 and 1995.
In 1998 the NRO announced plans to
combine the three separate classes of Sigint satellites into an Integrated Overhead Sigint Architecture (IOSA) in order to:
"improve Sigint performance and avoid costs by consolidating systems,
utilizing ... new satellite and data processing technologies" .
Each satellite and processing facility costs about $1 billion.
2.- The SPECIAL OPERATIONS (SO) (MOONPENNY/SPRINKLER) system - is the
unauthorized reception of ordinary satellite communications used by
Now called COLLECTION PROCESSING (CP) , it consists
of interception terminals (designated by letters - A, B, etc) placed
so as to intercept the signals broadcast to the earth’s surface by
national or international communication satellites (COMmunications
INTelligence - COMINT ).
These may include satellites launched by
single nations, such as Russia or Israel, or by groups of nations,
such as ARABSAT , or by the international community as a whole
(INTELSAT). Because the ordinary function of these satellites is to
broadcast their signals to earth, no special equipment needs to be
placed in space to intercept them.
SO’s main targets were originally the collection of data from the
former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. However, since
the end of the Cold War SO has in addition focused on Europe and the
With the help of its partners the NSA aims to collect, examine and
process all international (and many national) communications.
Statements made in 1992 by former Director Vice Admiral William Studeman indicate that the
NSA collected about 2 million intercepted
messages per hour. Of these, all but about 13,000 an hour were
discarded and of these about 2,000 met forwarding criteria, of which
about 20 are selected by analysts, who then write 2 reports for
Therefore, in 1992 17.5 billion messages a
year could have been intercepted, of which some 17.5 million may
have been studied for analysis .
A third Operational Directorate called CTAR (Collect, Transcript,
Analysis & Recording) also exists.
This system (now known as EP -
Exploitation & Product) uses data from RUNWAY and MOONPENNY and has
CTAR 1 to cover Russia etc.
CTAR 2 for "ROW" - the Rest Of the World (with a special sub-section
MENA for Middle East Nations)
CTAR 3 for WATCH - possibly the ECHELON system
An investigating European Union Committee in 2001 received evidence
that the ECHELON system gives 55,000 British and American operatives
access to data gathered by 120 spy satellites worldwide.
minute of every day, the system is capable of processing three
million electronic communications"
Prior to extensive automation, sorting of messages was carried out
by reference to a list of targets, known as a "watch list".
last decade, this list has evolved into a system called project
ECHELON which was developed and operated on behalf of the United
States and its partners in the UKUSA intelligence alliance (Britain,
Australia, Canada and New Zealand)
In this system computers, known
as DICTIONARY are used to select messages which may include
combinations of specific names, dates, places, subjects etc.
DICTIONARY automatically searches through intercepted messages
looking for particular subjects and people from target lists. Those
matching particular criteria are sent for further processing by
analysts. Key words for message interception are numerically coded
and include diplomatic messages as well as regional communications.
ECHELON was first revealed by Duncan Campbell in 1988 in a New
Statesman article  and detailed in "Secret Power" by Nicky
Hagar in 1996 .
The existence of the Echelon system has been
officially confirmed in a report commissioned by the Civil Liberties
Committee of the European Parliament .
From "The Spy in your Server" by Duncan Campbell, August 2000
Of course, the US is not the only country to electronically
eavesdrop, in the UK the newly opened Government Technical
Assistance Centre (GTAC) is operating from inside MI5’s
headquarters at Thames House, Millbank. Here, codes used for private
email or to protect files on personal computers are broken.
also receive and hold private keys under the RIP (Regulation of
Investigatory Powers) Act .
The American authorities largely refuse to answer questions about
the activities of Menwith Hill, give out information or allow
reporters, MPs or MEPs into the base.
Meaningful answers to many of
the questions that MPs ask about Menwith Hill in the House of
Commons are not forthcoming. Many MPs have asked them in the past,
including Alice Mahon, Max Madden (Bradford West) and
"Codes of Access to Government Information" exemptions are
frequently used as a reason for not giving full answers. Among the
most prolific questioners of the status and role of Menwith Hill was
Bob Cryer, who was MP for Bradford South until his tragic death in
1994. His final speech to the House , in an adjournment
debate, was a succinct rendering of the questions at the heart of
Questions continue to be asked in the House of Commons
but satisfactory answers are very rare.
Margaret Newsham helped to design the ECHELON system and has
recently described her work in an interview with Ekstra Bladet in
December 1999 .
"We are spying on our own citizens
and the rest of the world - even our European allies. If I say
’Amnesty’ or ’Margaret Newsham’, it is intercepted, analyzed,
coordinated, forwarded and registered - if it is of interest to the
Mike Frost, who worked for Canadian intelligence from 1972 until
1992, alleged in February 2000 that, when she was prime minister,
Margaret Thatcher used the Echelon network to spy on two cabinet
ministers in 1983 .
"(Thatcher) had two ministers that
she said, ’they weren’t on side,’... so my boss went to London
and did intercept traffic from those two ministers," Frost was
quoted as saying in the excerpts released by "60 Minutes."
She was able
to circumvent domestic laws against spying on citizens by asking
another Echelon member to do it for her.
Recent articles in the media (for example "Global Spy Network
Revealed" by Andrew Bomford of the BBC
 and "Critics Question NSA Reading Habits" by Vernon Loeb of the Washington Post
indicate that concern over the activities at Menwith Hill is
In a recent article 
James Bamford suggests that the
rapid development of technology (as shown by, for example "New
Technology for the NSA" by Suelette Dreyfus
 has meant that
new laws may be required to ensure proper control over these
A recent US report called for an "undisclosed amount" for upgrades
to Menwith Hill but at the same time insisted that the NSA be made
to account for its methods of intercepting electronic
Commenting on the report House, Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.)
"We direct...the NSA to report in detail on the legal
standards that it employs for the interception of communications."
Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.) said that although
NSA is facing,
"tremendous challenges coping with
the explosive development of commercial communications and
computer technology...[the agency] has not demonstrated much
prowess in coping with the challenge."
And things of course continue to move
on - in a recent interview, Duncan Campbell has suggested that,
"The code name Echelon is only part
of the entire system, and everything seems to indicate that they
have switched codes. Last I heard it was ’Magistrand’."
In 1990 the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel claimed that the NSA
intercepted messages about a pending $200-million telecommunications
deal between Indonesia and the Japanese satellite manufacturer NEC
George Bush, then the U.S. president, is said to have
intervened on the basis of the intelligence intercept and to have
convinced the Indonesians to split the contract between NEC and US -
In May 2000, Robert Windrem, investigative producer for NBC News in
New York reported on newly unearthed documents that appear to
confirm reports that Echelon was used for commercial espionage
The United States admits that it regularly tracks bribery
attempts by foreign companies in competition with US firms for
overseas contracts - and uses that information to help US companies
win those contracts.
Photo by Craig Stennett for CAAB
Duncan Campbell said the latest documents show that the United
States and its allies in the British Commonwealth are concerned more
about contracts than uncovering bribery.
"It’s all well and good
that they uncover bribery by European companies, but their response
is extralegal. Why not make it public and prosecute it. The U.S.
appears to be saying, ’If it’s terrorism, evidence is turned over
and people are prosecuted. If it’s a commercial interest, we do it
Duncan Campbell has also revealed U.S. documents that show how the
intelligence is carried out by exploiting the vulnerability of
corporate communications to electronic interception.
"It is the new
Cold War. The United States intelligence agencies, facing downsizing
after the fall of the Berlin wall, have found themselves a new role
spying on foreign firms to help American business in global
markets," he said .
Brian Gladwell, a British former
NATO computer expert commented,
"The analogy I use is where we were 250 years ago with pirates on
the high seas. Governments never admitted they sponsored piracy, yet
they all did behind the scenes. If we now look at cyberspace we have
state-sponsored information piracy.
We can’t have a global
e-commerce until governments like the US stop state-sponsored theft
of commercial information." 
In 1993 and 1994 it was reported that the U.S. intelligence
community helped U.S. firms win $16.5 billion in overseas contracts
by alerting the governments in Third World countries that ministers
and others were "on the take".
Among the U.S. companies that
have benefited are Raytheon, Boeing and Hughes Network Systems. The
intelligence community has clamped down on the release of such data
The 1993 review showed that between 1986 and 1992 spy
"had identified about 250 cases of aggressive lobbying by
foreign governments on behalf of their domestic industries that are
competing against U.S. firms for business overseas."
In January 1994 the then French Prime Minister
Edouard Balladur flew
to Riyadh to conclude a $6bn deal for arms, airliners and
maintenance, including sales of the European Airbus. He flew home
The Baltimore Sun reported that,
"from a commercial
communications satellite, NSA lifted all the faxes and phone-calls
between the European consortium Airbus, the Saudi national airline
and the Saudi government. The agency found that Airbus agents were
offering bribes to a Saudi official. It passed the information to US
officials pressing the bid of Boeing Co."
Clinton’s government intervened with
the Saudis and the contract went to Boeing.
In fact in 1994 President Clinton signed $40bn of business
agreements between Indonesia and US firms on one day. Among these
was a $2.6bn power plant at Paiton, Java. At the time the contract
was signed, the US knew one of President Suharto’s daughters had
been cut in on the deal, and was given a stake in the project worth
more than $150m.
Also in 1994, the NSA intercepted phone-calls between France’s
Thomson-CSF and Brazil concerning SIVAM, a $1.4bn surveillance
system for the Amazon rain forest. The company was alleged to have
bribed members of the Brazilian government selection panel.
contract was awarded to the US Raytheon Corporation - which
"the Department of Commerce worked very hard in support
of US industry on this project".
This is just one of hundreds of "success" stories listed by the US
Government’s "Advocacy Center" who brag about beating UK, European
or Japanese competitors. In the first 17 months of the Clinton
administration, 72 cases of unfair competition were identified and
A February 1995 National Security Strategy statement noted,
"collection and analysis can help level the economic playing field
by identifying threats to U.S. companies from foreign intelligence
services and unfair trading practices."
The US have beaten British competitors to power generation,
engineering and telecommunications projects in the Philippines,
Malawi, Peru, Tunisia and the Lebanon.
In India, the CIA tracked
British moves to clinch a deal to build a 700MW power station near
Bombay. In January 1995 , the $400m contract was awarded to the US
companies Enron, GE and Bechtel. Also in 1995 , General Electric
Power Systems won a $120m bid to build a plant in Tunisia.
Advocacy Center boasted that,
"they beat intense competition from
French, German, Italian and British firms for the project."
In July 1995 a general discussion of "specialized technical
operations" was given in a report to the US Congress.
from the CIA’s National Counter Intelligence Center noted,
they are so easily accessed and intercepted, corporate
telecommunications - particularly international telecommunications -
provide a highly vulnerable and lucrative source for anyone
interested in obtaining trade secrets or competitive information."
"Because of the increased usage of these links for
bulk computer transmission and electronic mail, intelligence
collectors find telecommunications intercepts cost-effective."
CIA officials say they focus primarily on overseas companies that
bribe foreign officials to win a contract.
However, evidence exists
that U.S. intelligence is not limited itself to gathering
information on criminal activities like bribery, but has also been
on the lookout for any activities viewed as "aggressive."
activities of foreign companies tracked by U.S. intelligence were,
"lobbying," "linking financial aid to contract awards" and "the use
of insider information and disinformation against U.S. firms."
In February 2000, a French intelligence report accused U.S. secret
agents of working with computer giant Microsoft to develop software
allowing Washington to spy on computer users around the world.
claims that the National Security Agency helped install secret
programs on Microsoft software, currently in use of 90% of computers
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT Investigates
The 1999 report "Assessing the Technologies of Political Control"
 commissioned by the
Civil Liberties Committee of
Parliament, and considered by the committee of the office of Science
and Technology Assessment (STOA) in Luxembourg states:
"Within Europe all email telephone and fax communications are
routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency
transferring all target information from the European mainland via
the strategic hub of London then by satellite to Fort Meade in
Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill".
The report confirms the existence of the Echelon system and calls
for an investigation into the activities of the NSA at Menwith Hill.
A driving force behind the report was Glyn Ford, Labour MEP for
Greater Manchester East.
A follow up report for STOA entitled "The state of the art in
Communications Intelligence (COMINT) of automated processing for
intelligence purposes of intercepted broadband multi-language leased
or common carrier systems, and its applicability to COMINT targeting
and selection, including speech recognition" by Duncan Campbell  describes the ECHELON system and the state of the art in
French politicians and lawyers have frequently accused the US and
Britain of using electronic intelligence networks to win business
away from foreign rivals .
However, France runs a worldwide
electronic intelligence system of its own - known as "Frenchelon",
based at Domme, near Sarlat in the Dordogne, and including an
eavesdropping station in New Caledonia in the Pacific.
David Bowe, MEP for Cleveland and Richmond, is quoted in the Jan
5-11 1998 edition of "The Big Issue" as saying,
"The section on
surveillance confirms my belief that American intelligence gathering
operations present a serious threat to British and European
political sovereignty, civil liberties and commercial interests.
Peace campaigners and civil liberties champions have not been
imagining a disturbing, all-seeing presence in our midst - there is
Bowe continues to call on the European Parliament to oppose
moves by the US to make all private messages sent via the Internet
accessible to the NSA.
Yorkshire MEPs Tom Murphy, Mike McGowan, David Bowe and Barry Seal
join other Yorkshire campaigners in chains for a symbolic
on American Independence Day outside the Base at Menwith Hill
In March 2000 the Green/EFA Group in the European Parliament
presented a list of 172 signatures of MEPs of all political groups
supporting the establishment of a Parliamentary Inquiry Committee on
Echelon, an espionage system operated by the USA, the UK and other
Parliament’s rules of procedure require at least 157
signatures (25% of MEPs) for such a demand
Heidi Hautala, Co-President of the Green/EFA Group said,
ago, Commissioner Bangemann simply denied the existence of an
interception system such as Echelon, and his successor Frits Bolkestein is continuing to do so. But the
Parliament’s STOA Report
on Echelon and the subsequent hearing organized by the Civil Rights
Committee have given enough evidence that this system exists and
We call upon the EU Commission and the Council to show more
transparency in this question and to help to shed light on the legal
grey zone in which telecommunication interception is practiced."
This proposal was at first rejected by the major political groups in
Instead, on 5 July 2000 the European Parliament decided
to set up a temporary committee and appointed 36 MEPs to lead a
year-long investigation into Echelon [.
A temporary committee
is not restricted to dealing only with matters relating to community
law (as a committee of enquiry would be) and can investigate to see
if the rights of European citizens are adequately protected and
determine whether European industry is put at risk by the global
interception of communications.
The committee was due to meet 7
times between July-September 2000 and in October 2000 Ilka Schröder,
a Green Party member of the temporary committee from Berlin, filed
criminal complaints in Germany against Echelon
Members of the EP panel decided to visit the United States in May
2001 on a fact-finding mission to include discussions with various
U.S. politicians and intelligence officials. Not surprisingly,
no-one in the United States Government would admit that ECHELON even
existed. The NSA, the CIA, the State Department and the
of Commerce refused to talk to the committee. The MEPs cut their
visit short, returning home angry and frustrated.
The first draft of the report, prepared by Gerhard Schmidt, was
published in early June 2001  but the MEPs admitted they had
been unable to find conclusive proof of industrial espionage.
considered the threat to privacy posed by ECHELON to be more
disturbing and James Bamford is quoted as saying that,
issue is whether Echelon is doing away with individual privacy - a
basic human right" .
The report concludes the system cannot be
extensive as it is based only on the worldwide interception of
satellite communications, only a small part of the total
communications made around the globe.
The report decided that ECHELON had access to a limited proportion of radio and cable
communications. However, privacy groups claim that Britain, the US
and their Echelon partners, were developing eavesdropping systems to
cope with the explosion in communications on email and the internet.
In addition, evidence submitted showed that the ECHELON system gives
55,000 British and American operatives access to data gathered by
120 spy satellites worldwide. Every minute of every day, the system
is capable of processing three million electronic communications.
Also, Nicky Hager has expressed fears that the US is moving to
directly tap into undersea fibre-optic cables. The US Navy recently
launched a $2.5 billion Seawolf-class attack submarine (the "USS
Jimmy Carter"). The 106.7m, 9297-tonne nuclear-powered submarine is
the third of a class capable of diving to 800m, deploying minisubs
and remote-controlled underwater vehicles and attaching tapping
devices directly to cables lying at the bottom of the world’s oceans
Duncan Campbell supplied four important submissions to the Committee
on "Interception Capabilities - Impact and Exploitation". These were
commissioned by the Committee in December 2000 to update and extend
the previous 1999 EP report, "Interception Capabilities 2000".
cover the use of communications intelligence (COMINT) for economic
purposes, legal and human rights issues, and recent political and
technological developments. These submissions were presented to
Brussels on 22 and 23 January 2001 . The fourth study, on new
political and technical developments, was presented in the form of a
The first paper summarizes the role of ECHELON in COMINT  and points out that very few media reports have
provided original new information about Echelon.
The second paper
 on the "COMINT impact on international trade" describes in
detail how, since 1992 , Europe could have sustained significant
employment and financial loss as a result of the U.S. government’s
use of ECHELON. Estimates of the damage vary from $13 billion to
$145 billion but the exact figure will never be known.
It refers to
various annexes which describe (among other things) the work of the
U.S. Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC) and the
Center. The third paper  reveals how Britain protects the
rights of Americans, Canadians and Australians against interception
that would not comply with their own domestic law, while offering no
protection of any kind to other Europeans.
The Echelon committee stated that,
"possible threats to privacy and
to businesses posed by a system of the ECHELON type arise not only
from the fact that is a particularly powerful monitoring system, but
also that it operates in a largely legislation-free area."
for the development and promotion of European "user-friendly
open-source encryption software" - it wanted "encryption to become
The report also called for,
"a common level of protection against
intelligence operations based on the highest level which exists in
any member state".
The Committee was particularly critical of the
situation in the UK and some other member states where there is no
parliamentary oversight of surveillance. It said that national
governments should set up,
"specific, formally structured monitoring
committees responsible for supervising and scrutinizing the
activities of the intelligence services",
...and called for the European
Parliament to hold an international congress for NGOs from Europe,
the USA and other countries to provide a forum on the protection
of privacy against telecommunications surveillance.