Free Scotland Ocotober 2005|
WE ALL KNOW ABOUT YOU!
America spies on all the worlds citizens
Today the United States stands
at the centre of a vast and growing network of spy bases. Many of these bases
are highly secret and are disguised as belonging to the country on which they
are sited. They are mostly listening or retrieval posts that transmit raw material
back to the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters at Fort George Meade,
Maryland or to the NSAs top spy base at RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire.
There are three main forms of telecommunications. The first consists of
telephone calls, faxes, e-mail and internet connections which are sent and received
via communications satellites owned by the International Telecommunications Satellite
organisation (Intelsat). Intelsat is a treaty-based international organisation
which currently maintains around 19 satellites in geostationary orbits, so that
they maintain the same position in space relative to the earth. By 2002 24% of
its stock was owned by Lockheed Martin. To eavesdrop on all these communications
the NSA maintains a network of antennae at listening posts situated at strategic
points across the globe. Not surprisingly the volume of messages intercepted is
A second form of telecommunications is shortwave and VHF radio signals.
Because of the the earths curvature these signals cannot be easily intercepted
at ground level without large numbers of monitoring stations, but they can be
intercepted from space. Thus the US National Reconnaisance Office maintains a
network of spy satellites in geostationary orbits strung out along the equator.
There they intercept and beam back to earth a wide range of messages including
mobile phone calls and city to city microwave radio transmissions. In addition
the satellites take photographs, survey the oceans, warn of missile launches,
record nuclear tests and transmit highly encrypted messages back to earth. They
also require an extensive network of antennae to receive their output and send
it on for further analysis.
The main receiving points for all this information
are RAF Menwith Hill, RAF Morwenstow in Cornwall, the air force base at Bad Aibling,
near Augsberg, Germany, Pine Gap near Alice Springs, Australia, Sabana Seca, Puerto
Rico, summit communications in Taiwan and the Naval Air Facility at
the air force base at Misawa in northern Japan. Pine Gap and Menwith Hill can
also pick up signals from a new Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) of satellites
which give immediate warning of missile launches anywhere on earth and are a key
part of George Bushs Missile Defence programme.
The third type of
communication is via copper cables or high capacity optical fibre networks. These
can be spied on only if a physical tap is placed on the cable itself. Since 1971
the United States has been placing taps on underwater copper cables but fibre-optic
cables seems to be harder to intercept and probably remain the most secure form
of communication. In 1999 the US Congress authorised $600 million to adapt a nuclear
powered submarine the USS Jimmy Carter to enable it to tap underwater fibre-optic
Since 1981, an informal arrangement for intelligence sharing between
English speaking countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) was formalised
under the code name echelon. Echelon operates 120 satellites worldwide.
Each member of the alliance operates its own satellites and its own supercomputers
that list key words, names, telephone numbers and anything else that can be made
machine readable. They then search the huge downloads of raw information the satellites
bring in each day and exchange their intake and analyses with the other countries
in the alliance. Other nations such as France and Germany claim that this surveillance
system has been used for commercial espionage and has enabled US companies to
win contracts over their European rivals as a result of state sponsored information
It is not commercial companies, but ordinary citizens who have most
to fear about this level of state spying. It is trade unionists, peace activists
and active members of legitimate political parties whose everyday conversations
and campaigning activities are being monitored and assessed on a regular basis.
The growing militarisation of our society, largely hidden from the people, is
now undermining the very civil liberties and right to privacy that it is supposed