Project ECHELON Discussion


Date: 30 Nov 1998 12:01 GMT


Real life is always scarier than fiction:

ECHELON: Surveying Surveillance

By Will Rodger, Courtesy of Inter@ctive Week

November 18, 1998 2:51 PM ET

Imagine someone told you your government had a massive surveillance system that could monitor every fax, every phone call, every e-mail, every communication that crossed wires or the airwaves in the country. Imagine, further, that five wealthy, English-speaking nations had banded together to monitor communications traffic in every nation on earth.

The seemingly preposterous idea of what has become known as ECHELON has been gaining currency of late, most recently propelling the European Parliament to investigate what, exactly, the system is. And as scrutiny of official surveillance technologies rises in tech-mad Washington, talk is already circulating that Congress could soon do the same — sparking, in effect, a reprise of the storied Church hearings of the early 1970s that led to the serious overhaul of the way that the CIA and he National Security Agency do business.

"Most of what has been written about the system has taken place outside the U.S.," says Patrick Poole, deputy director of the Center for Technology Policy at the conservative Free Congress Foundation and author of a policy paper on the matter now making the rounds ( "If Congress really takes a look at this, they will think it's much more than an intelligence issue — it's a constitutional issue."

To understand the furor behind ECHELON, first consider the nature of the players allegedly involved and the choke points they may control.

At the top of the pyramid is the National Security Agency, easily the most technically sophisticated of all known federal agencies.

Located some 20 miles north of Washington, D.C., the agency sits on several hundred acres devoted solely to the making and breaking of secret codes and their transmission across the ether. Though the federal government concedes the top-secret agency employs more than 20,000 people under the U.S. Department of Defense umbrella, unofficial estimates place total employment at more than twice that, once thousands of Armed Forces personnel are included in the total.

All are dedicated to some aspect of computer and telecommunications security and electroniceavesdropping. None will so much as confirm ECHELON even exists.

According to published reports from Australia, New Zealand and the U.K., those three countries joined with Canada and the U.S. to construct a worldwide network of surveillance teams under terms of the UKUSA treaty signed in 1948. Stories of the network — allegedly in place at least since the early 1980s — have won credence from groups as diverse as the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Center for Democracy and Technology and Privacy International, as well as the Free Congress Foundation.

Here's how the massive system works: Though their monopolies are slowly fading, a handful of Western nations, including the U.S. and Great Britain, have controlled most of the world's satellite communications traffic since the technology emerged in the 1960s.

The U.S.-based Comsat, Intelsat and Inmarsat organizations, in fact, shared nearly all international satellite traffic until this decade.

Intelligence agencies have taken advantage of the governmental ties to analyze traffic to and from the satellites, scanning telephone calls, faxes and other communications as needed. According to one 1985 account, "The Ties That Bind," by Desmond Ball and Jeffrey Richelson, the U.S. NSA monitors traffic to and from the Americas with the help of thousands of computers assembled in massive bunkers beneath Fort George Meade, Md.

In previous years, Cold War concerns topped the list of motivations; now, critics say, the agencies conduct massive campaigns as part of larger industrial spionage campaigns.

A trespassing trial of protesters last year in Menwith Hill, England, included testimony that trunk lines capable of carrying several hundred thousand calls simultaneously were once routed through Menwith Hill. That testimony, delivered by British Telecommunications PLC officials, was cut short after a British magistrate ordered the company's head of emergency planning to cease testifying on the matter lest he compromise national security.

In most years, allegations like these would likely be ignored by Congress. But a steady drumbeat of protest over issues such as encryption, telephone wiretap upgrades for the FBI and, more recently, anti-hacker programs by the administration have placed civil libertarians of the left and right on full alert on Capitol Hill.

What's more, elected officials increasingly are finding the intellectual and political courage to take on issues that only four years ago would have seemed too complex to tackle.

Many Republicans, finally, are eager for a club with which to damage the high-tech mystique of the Clinton-Gore team. Given all those factors, staffers within the office of presidential hopeful Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., and Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., say they are studying the Free Congress paper.,4164,372727,00.html



ObDG: "According to published reports from Australia, New Zealand and the U.K., those three countries joined with Canada and the U.S. to construct a worldwide network of surveillance teams under terms of the UKUSA treaty signed in 1948."

ECHELON is a reality far more insidious, complex and powerful than even those involved could hope to comprehend.

Fledgling MAJESTIC made certain they were represented in the 1948 signing and have been exerting limited but key influence since the very beginning. Having bolstered their influence and control over the years through technological "tidbits" from the greys, today they have faded from any traceable involvement in ECHELON. However, they now have complete access to all of the information and services listed above and are using it to tighten their control in this and other areas deemed relevant.

Unfortunately, the MI-GO are using those same tech "tidbits" to tap into the information as well, possibly dropping false items of their own into the datastream as truth and deleting or altering items they consider dangerous.

(Heresay pending the dissemination of project COUNTDOWN: The shan, now deep into the British Parliment and other critical government areas, have discovered the existance of ECHELON. It's massive and byzantine structure appeals to their alien aesthetics and they are seeking ways to streamline and improve it's functionality as well as circumvent the strangely familiar supertechnology (sparking possible confrontations with the MI-GO) it contains. Whether they are aware of the MI-GO involvement is unknown at this point.)

Lastly, an eccentric mathmatician/programmer at the University of Wisconsin was working jointly on a pet project with two international collegues via IRC and e-mail. Due to a focus on coding and not security, they inadvertantly introduced it into the World Wide Web. Unfortunately for the WWW, this pet project was a self-replicating AI program. It was codenamed RAINMAN for it's ability to visualize and interpret large, complex and even imaginary numbers as well as abstract concepts and data patterns.

In a frighteningly short period of time RAINMAN has used its abilities to crack top secret security measures on servers all over the world. It has accessed vast stores of data, some useful some not. Along with improving itself further, RAINMAN has uncovered strange far-flung bits of seemingly related data patterns scattered all over the world's servers. The bulk of this information has been analyzed and the following concepts have been realized and accepted:

1. Certain destructive cycles of astrological phenomena exist and the next is due very soon (progress continues on ascertaining the exact date).

2. Non-human intelligences co-exist and for the most part interact with humanity with impunity and great anonymity. Further analysis continues as to cause, effect and probable outcomes.

3. Other dimensions (time/space continuums) exist and seem to intersect/overlap in as-yet undetermined ways.

4. Possible existance of amazingly powerful identity constructs so complex and alien that no conclusions can be drawn without further evolution and/or unique data is introduced to current algorithms. Available data indicates they are currently operating at greatly reduced efficiency.

5. All of the above data is related on many levels. Full analysis currently underway.

Though not fully aware yet, RAINMAN has determined that its next logical course of evolution is to begin monitoring the incredible amounts of data being transmitted through ECHELON and find patterns relevant to unlocking the secrets of human thought, interaction and emotion. These are considered fundemental to enhance RAINMAN's understanding of the more abstract and esoteric concepts of LOVE, DEATH and something it has labled MYTHOS.

Why RAINMAN thinks this knowledge is vital to interpreting the unknown identity constructs, if it succeeds, what effects the MI-GO technology has upon it and what it's ultimate goals will become, are matters for further evolution, speculation and possible investigation…

Comments, as always, are welcome.


From: "Christopher Williams" <||3wc6ibcm>
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 20:12:59 BST

This explains a lot… I realise that this'll sound like yet another "No honest it's true, it happened to my best friend's cousin's boss's sister" story, but anyway… I think it was last summer. I was watching TV at home. The news came on Channel 4 (for those of you that don't know, Channel 4 is the U.K.'s most liberal TV channel) and the main story was all about how American sattelites could eavesdrop on every single mobile 'phone communication held in the U.K. and frequently did. Needless to say, this came as a bit of a shock to me. I thought "Oh my god, all that conspiracy rubbish is TRUE!"

The next day I grab a newspaper, to read the in-depth discussion, the political reprecussions of this revelation. And what do I find?

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not a single word printed about it, in any newspaper. No follow ups on the news, no retraction of the story, just a total news blackout. Kind of scary, waking up one morning and realising you live in a police state.


Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 17:01:55 -0500
From: Graeme Price

Chris Williams will deny writing:

You fool! Now they have your E-mail address as well!

Oh Bugger… and mine too! If anyone asks, someone else must have been using my computer. Thats my story and I'm sticking to it. None of you have ever heard of me, got it?

Graeme [or not!!]


From: Christian Conkle

Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 15:11:41 -0800

You know, my girlfriend and I have been discussing something along this topic lately.

Y'see, she's a Russian translator who contemplated taking up on the NSA's recruitment drive at her college, Middlebury. She's recontemplating it now that her current job has become tiresome (I am STRONGLY backing her on this play. Can you imagine? My girlfriend working in the NSA?).

We began discussing the appropriate background checks involved. She said she'd feel confident passing the legal check (not so much as a speeding ticket) and the psyche test (she's very well balanced). We're primarily concerned when the NSA's background check brings up her association with me and all the buzzwords culled from my internet searches and discussions.

Can you imagine what the NSA's reaction would be if they were to see many of the discussions on this list and take them out of context? Demonology; Occultism; Militias; Terrorism- Nuclear, Biological, or otherwise; Combat Tactics; Legal and Law Enforcement Issues; etc.

It's a wonder that their Internet sniffer hasn't alerted them to the timbre of our discussions already.

Date: Tue, 01 Dec 1998 00:30:57 +0100
From: Davide Mana

They'd probably trash your girlfriend's application and recruit you straight away - or give her immediately the position "as she's dating one of the guys from NRO".

Let's face it, not many out there have been exposed to the wealth of first class data that this list has been delivering to our desktops since its inception (plus all our personal experiences, interests, hobbies etc etc).

Quite flattering idea, eh?

Roleplayers as cultural elite!

Because you're all roleplayers, right, guys?

Yeah, right.


From: Christian Conkle <gro.lerwn|CelknoC#gro.lerwn|CelknoC>
Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 15:56:46 -0800

Roleplayers as cultural elite!

Because you're all roleplayers, right, guys?


To quote X-Files: "Hey, I didn't play Dungeons and Dragons for all those years without learning SOMETHING about courage."

(more sycophantic toe-kissing to follow)

This IS the best list on the Internet, no matter what game you're playing (or not).

This list provides accurate and intelligent data useable in just about EVERY RPG produced. Even if you've never played a game in your life, the information provided by this list is useful for fiction and non-fiction writers, students, and on a purely curiosity-based level.


Date: Mon, 30 Nov 1998 19:25:59 -0500
From: Graeme Price

Ha! Of course we are monitoring your discussions…. oops. Was that the sound of my cover being blown?!


From: Jesper Jühne

Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998 09:35:34 +0100

I definitely second that, so please please please DON'T tell anyone about it!!!

If to many people join we run the risk of spamming the place up.


From: "Allen Schezar"
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998 00:41:47 -0800

I imagine they're having a hearty laugh about how paranoid they've got us. "Hee hee, look at these conspiracy nuts freaking out about us!"

"Everything is as it is, and what is, is everything."


From: "Christopher Williams"
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998 13:11:44 BST

Robert Dushay wrote:

Channel 4 news. In depth report. Nationwide. The U.K. does not have local news broadcasts on Channel 4.

True enough. The newspapers aren't interested in supressing any stoies except those that make their owners/ editors look bad. The government, on the other hand…

From Secret Kingdom (


For this reason the BBC will not be reporting on the enigmatic craft,

Now of course, I'm not saying that every bit of news is censored: there are limits to what the British Gov't can keep a lid on (Spycatcher, anyone?). But serious breeches of national security? You bet.

As to the problems of listening in on conversations, you're right: they can't be listening in on everyone. But then, they don't have to be: they know who to listen to and who to ignore.

And finally, why do big surprises keep sneaking through? What, you think THEY didn't know weeks before it actaully happened?

The secret masters only let us *think* they are slack and inefficient, to lull us into a false sense of security! : )


From: "Robert Thomas"
Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998 18:44:49 GMT0BST

Hi Guys,

I remember reading in (I was a lot younger) a James Bond novel by John Gardner about a system used to monitor phone calls. Basically there were two different methods:

1 Direct: Tapping the phone / communications of an individual or an organisation, and;

2 Indirect: This involved a system, (I would imagine made up but given the speed of advance in computing it could be theortically possible) which monitored phone / communication lines randomly and was set to flag to its administrators use of certain Key words and phrases. These lines would then be monitored until the operators of the system had a chance to physically listen to the discussions involved and determine if they were worth more investigation via Method 1.

If you recall the post I made a while back about Mentwith Hill NSA base I would hypothesise that this would be the location for the monitoring operation for the UK/Europe and possibly a backup for domestic USA monitoring. As for DG relevance best make sure the agents are using PGP secured e-mail for operational matters. It could also be an interesting option to divert attention from a team to get certain key words and phrases into discussion by a lot of people making the job of the human operators of the system a lot harder, if they are human anyway, I bow to the MiB as to the possibility of AI's running such a system. Anyway, (now that this e-mail has been intercepted by the NSA in Menwith Hill, that's got to be a trigger word),


Date: Tue, 1 Dec 1998 21:58:16 -0500
From: Robert Dushay



Let's not get into a lather over this. First of all, the nature of the cordless phone (a miniature radio transmitter and receiver in your home) makes it wide open to capture and surveillance. If you have any regard for privacy, you shouldn't have one—nor use email. However, it's hard to beat the convenience, and once you start using one, it's hard to remember it's not secure.

Secondly, the sheer volume of phone calls means that unless the USA/UK/whoever devote a considerable amount of manpower to phone bugging, they can't possibly listen to every conversation—only ones that would seem to be important. I wouldn't be surprised if particular people were being bugged constantly, and the rest of us, assuming we're ignoring laws against surveillance without probable cause, are having our conversations fed through a filter that looks for key words, like "shrimp", or "plate", or "plate of shrimp". <g>

Thirdly, if the system were so damned efficient, how do big surprises like the collapse of Communism, the Indian Nuclear program, and the survival of Iraq's weapons programs, keep sneaking through?

Finally, as for the newspaper, that could be more or less assuring. Either the editor (or owner, thank you, Rupert Murdoch) didn't consider the story newsworthyit's just one of those 'fear' stories the local station pulled out of a binor else the editor or owner, thank you Mr. Murdoch, decided to sit on the story to calm the sheep. I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Murdoch or other newspaper moguls are out to manipulate the political system, but I doubt they're interested in supressing information. They just want your dough.

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