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Echelon (signals intelligence) (wikipedia.org)
35 points by olalonde on March 15, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 20 comments

If you live in the valley long enough, you get involve in some wierd shit. In the pre-Internet days, I worked on a search engine that we believed was used in Echelon. Mind you my info is about fourth hand because the tiny company I worked for sold the software to a defense contractor who sold it to ... the NSA. I remember the bugs were a piece of work. They didnt give any of the search terms, let alone the documents. One was that the parser barfed if the document contained more than 4k 03's in a sequence.

The company figured out that is was Echelon after the flap emerged and Echelon was disappeared/disbanded/re-purposed. The feedback that we got was that it was the Israelis that were doing the commercial espionage. Some of the other governments were angry that the Israelis were involved at all.

OTOH we could have been given a complete pack of lies to divert our attention from the real group.

I've heard, but have no way to prove, that Echelon allows domestic spying by arranging for member countries to collect data flows of the other member countries. Presumably this is then shared by some agreement that falls outside what is left of the domestic wiretapping restrictions.

Could be nonsense, but after learning that MKUltra was real, who knows anymore. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_MKULTRA

The idea that they have the power to spy and don't use it, when they could and without consequences is a little hard to fathom. Besides, there is very little legally nowadays that is really off-limits in that area. And whatever may not be (like the AT&T spying scandal was), can quickly be covered by new laws (with bi-partisan support).

The problem is who 'they' are

The CIA/NSA etc spying on the US and UK's enemies?

Or US companies spying on UK companies to gain a competitive advantage?

If you were a BP boss would you be confident that they weren't handing your emails over to the Whitehouse during the gulf spill?

I can pretty much confirm this is the case. I was told as much way back in 1996 at a job interview for the local part of (the what was then unnamed but now has probably changed its name again) Echelon network. (Run out of the GCSB in NZ).

That is, it was explained to me that while we don't 'spy' on our citizens we supply as part of the partnership the ability for each member country to basically circumvent those restrictions because the entity doing the surveillance is actually a foreign government (all be it an ally). Not exactly in those terms but I was left in no doubt that that was how it worked.

Of course if they told me that a job interview I imagine it was regarded as public knowledge.

Thank you for telling this.

Echelon is largely old news. The best modern, public look at the current series (yes, series, and disparate at that) of systems is James Bamford's latest book, "Shadow Factory". It is full of fairly technical details, names, and places.


If I were paranoid and/or involved in intelligence work I might wonder whether these ancient facilities were retained to divert attention from newer intelligence-gathering facilities.

Disclaimer: I'm currently working my way through the TV series "24" :-)

Most of these facilities are still in use. Some are occasionally decommissioned.

IIRC, one such place out in the woods, back east was decommissioned and purchased for use by amateur astronomers some years back.

They probably had a field day opening the door for the first time. The equipment was all stripped out prior, but I'm sure they got a kick out of the expensive wiring & elaborate shielding everywhere.

I heard about this for the first time on J. J. Abram's Alias and researched it. I was quite surprised to see that it's real.

We hear about this quite often in the New Zealand media. People are often protesting outside the big "bubble" things and on the odd occasion (I think twice) people have jumped the fences and gotten past security to "pop" the "bubbles", causing "millions" in damages, a couple of guys are on trial atm for this, or very recently were

Please elaborate on what this "bubble" is that you speak of... Do you mean "listening facility" or something like that, or does "bubble" mean something more specific in your context?

Oh yeah, sorry I should have said domes for the radio dishes or what ever they are


They're satellite dishes used for intercepting satellite communications, but they're covered in domes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GCSB_Waihopai

The radomes (actually covers over satelite receiver dishes) are held up by air pressure. This avoids any metal framework that would interfere with the signal

I don't live far from Menwith Hill. Interesting Read.

Any unusual signage or anything around there? I used to live within driving distance to a State penitentiary in the US. It was out in the middle of nowhere (at the time), surrounded by farmland. On all 4 roads that marked the border around it were numerous signs, "Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers!"

It's on google street view -- have a look for yourself ;)


Looks like beautiful country. I can't read the signs from the satellite, though... ;-)

No, but all the sheep do face north

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