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TUCoPS :: Phreaking General Information :: commsurv.txt

Comms Surveilance Extract From PCW

Unauthorised Access UK  0636-708063  10pm-7am  12oo/24oo

     This  extract was taken from Personal Computer World
     and written by Duncan Campbell.

                        Comms Surveillance

     Data  comms and electronic mail do pose special  problems  in 
relation to comms interception,  since such messages (in  contrast 
to telephone calls) are intrinsically 'machine readable'. Although 
British  domestic communications (whether data or voice) are  only 
suposed  to be intercepted if a specific warrant  is  issued,  few 
people comprehend the scale on which Western intelligence agencies 
are   already  routinely  intercepting  all  civil   international 
communications.As  long  ago as 1960,  defectors from  the  United 
States NSA (National Security Agency also know as No Such  Agency) 
revealed  at a Moscow press conference that 'both  enciphered  and 
plain  text communications are monitored from almost every  nation 
in  the world,  including the nations on whose soil the  intercept 
bases are located'.

     Soon US, British and Allied intelligence agencies will embark 
on a massive,  billion-dollar expansion of their global electronic 
surveillance system, which will enable them to monitor and analyse 
civilian  and  comercial  communications into  the  21st  century. 
According  to  information  recently given  secrectly  to  the  US 
Congress,  a  new  surveillance system,  currently  identified  as 
Project  P415,  is  being set up by  NSA.  Many  other  countries' 
intelligence  agencies  will  be closely  involved  with  the  new 
network,  including those from Britain,  Austrialia,  Germany  and 
Japan, and even the People's Republic Of China.

     New satellite stations and monitoring centres are to be built 
around the world,  and a chain of new satellites launched, so that 
NSA and GCHQ Cheltenham, its British counterpart, may keep abreast 
of  the burgeoning international telecommunications  traffic.  The 
largest existing station in this network is the US  communications 
base at Menwith Hill,  near Harrogate,  Yorkshire,  which has taps 
into Britain's main national and international networks.  Although 
high-technology  stations  such  as  Menwith  Hill  are  primarily 
intended  to  monitor  international  comminications  and  control 
ultra-secret eavesdropping satellites, their capability can be and 
has  been  turned  inwards on domestic  tariff,  according  to  US 
experts.  This vast international global eavesdropping network has 
existed  since shortly after the Second World War,  when the   US, 
Britain,  Canada,  Australia  and  New  Zealand  signed  a  secret 
agreement on signals intelligence, or 'SIGINT'.

     Although  it is impossible for transcribers to listen to  all 
but a small fraction of the billions of telephone calls and  other 
signals which might contain interesting information, computer data 
signals  can  easily  be processed in any way  that  NSA  or  GCHQ 
analysts  require.  The agencies' computers automatically  analyse 
every  telex message or data signal,  and can als  identify  calls 
to, say, a target telephone number in London, no matter from which 
country they originate. At present, Operations Building 36M at the 
NSA's Menwith Hill station contains a network of eighteen powerful 
DEC VAX-11 processors supporting this and related  tasks.  Menwith 
Hill's  nest  of  computers  is part of  a  global  system  called 
Echelon, which will eventually be superseded by Project P415.

     Both  the  new and existing surveillance systems  are  highly 
computerised,   and  rely  on  virtually  total  interception   of 
international commercial and satellite communications in order  to 
locate  data of interest.  Early last summer a US  newspaper,  the 
Cleveland Plain Dealer,  revealed that the system had been used to 
target the telephone calls of a US senator.  British and  American 
domestic communications are also being targeted and intercepted by 
the Echelon network,  the US investigators have been told, despite 
legal  provisions that should make such  intentional  interception 
illegal.  Special teams from GCHQ have been secretly flown in  the 
last few years to a computer centre in Silicon Valley for training 
on   the   computer  systems  that  preform  both   domestic   and 
international interception.

     Recently  published  US  Department of  Defense  1989  budget 
information  has  confirmed that the Menwith Hill  base  would  be 
the   subject  of  a  major,   $26million   expansion   programme. 
Information given to the US Congress in February listed details of 
plans  for  a four-year expansion of facilities at  Menwith  Hill. 
Among  other  important stations being developed in the  new  P415 
network, US intelligence sources say, are a GCHQ base in Cornwall, 
which  intercepts  links  to  and  from  many  western  commercial 
satellites.  This  spy base,  at Morwenstow near  Bude,  has  been 
continuously expanded thoughout the 1980s.

     When  Britian's  new interception of Communications  Act  was 
passed in 1985, however, it was obviously designed to make special 
provision  for operations like Echelon to trawl all  international 
communications to and from Britian.  A special section of the Act, 
Section  3(2),  allows  warrants  to be issued  to  intercept  any 
general type of international messages to or from Britain, if this 
is 'in the interests of national security' or 'for the purpose  of 
safeguarding the economic well-being of the United Kingdom'.  Such 
warrants  also allow GCHQ to tap all other communications  on  the 
same  cables or satellites that may have to be picked up in  order 
to  select  the messages they want.  In  practice,  everything  is 

     There is no doubt that British law, along with British bases, 
has  been designed to encourage rather than inhibit  this  booming 
industry in international data surveillance.  This is quite a  new 
development.   In  the  1960s,  British  government  and  Treasury 
officials  took  a lot of convincing (by the Americans)  that  the 
interception  of  ordinary  commercial  data  communications   was 

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