by Yorkshire CND

from YorkShire Website




"No-one concerned about civil liberties can ignore Menwith Hill. 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









Menwith Hill Site



click image to enlarge

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 classified.


The American people know very little about it - and they know even less about Menwith Hill.


Map of the Base area (from - arrow points to main gate)



Aerial photo of the base (from

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  • 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 radomes (giant 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 impose conditions.





  • 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 lobbying decision-makers.

We will continue to protest against Menwith Hill’s,

  • lack of accountability

  • its promotion of the arms trade and war; its violation of local, national and international law

  • its abuse of democracy and civil liberties

  • its crucial role in US plans to dominate earth and space with nuclear and military technology

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Some History



Photo by Craig Stennett for CAAB


The Menwith Hill spy base (previously referred to as the 13th USASA 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 Base.


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.


A recent parliamentary question [1] revealed that, as of 26 April 2000 , there were 415 US military, 989 US civilians (from defense contractors like Lockheed Martin [2]), 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.


The agreement provided for the land to be acquired and stipulated that the US could,

"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.


From 1 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.


Inside are 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 Britain.


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.


The 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 ...". [3]



Steeplebush II Building - Photo by Craig Stennett (phone 0468-464784)



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 [4] 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 [5].


The high capacity link with Hunters Stones was employed in 1975 when satellite interception began [6]. BT state that the cables were connected directly to the US via undersea cable, and did not link to other parts of the British system.


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." [7]

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 [8].

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 electricity.


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 Laboratories).

  • 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; Pusher HFDF (High-Frequency Direction Finding) circular antennae and log-periodic aerials.

  • 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 equipment.



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Interception [9]

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.


Some 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 intelligence-gathering sites.

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 OPERATIONS.


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 [8].

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 communications.


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.


Other international messages and conversations from different starting places, but being conveyed along the same route, can also be intercepted.


Satellites 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 and processed.

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 renamed MERCURY.


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" [10].

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 other countries.


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 Middle East.

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 further distribution.


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 [11].

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 three sections:

  • 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.

"Every minute of every day, the system is capable of processing three million electronic communications"

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Prior to extensive automation, sorting of messages was carried out by reference to a list of targets, known as a "watch list".


In the 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 [13] and detailed in "Secret Power" by Nicky Hagar in 1996 [14].


The existence of the Echelon system has been officially confirmed in a report commissioned by the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament [15].



From "The Spy in your Server" by Duncan Campbell, August 2000 [16]


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.


It will also receive and hold private keys under the RIP (Regulation of Investigatory Powers) Act [17].

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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 Norman Baker (Lewis).


"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 [18], in an adjournment debate, was a succinct rendering of the questions at the heart of the campaign.


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 [19].


She said:

"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 intelligence agencies."

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 [20].

"(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." [21]

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 [23] and "Critics Question NSA Reading Habits" by Vernon Loeb of the Washington Post [22]) indicate that concern over the activities at Menwith Hill is growing.


In a recent article [24] James Bamford suggests that the rapid development of technology (as shown by, for example "New Technology for the NSA" by Suelette Dreyfus [25] has meant that new laws may be required to ensure proper control over these activities.

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 communications.


Commenting on the report House, Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) said:

"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." [26]

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’." [27]

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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 Corp.


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 - owned AT&T.

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 [42].


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 differently." [43]

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 [44].

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." [45]

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". [46]


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 since then.


The 1993 review showed that between 1986 and 1992 spy agencies,

"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." [47]

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 empty-handed.


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. [48]

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.


The contract was awarded to the US Raytheon Corporation - which announced:

"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 acted on.


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.


The 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.


The report from the CIA’s National Counter Intelligence Center noted,

"because 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."

It continued:

"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."


Among the 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." [49]

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.


It claims that the National Security Agency helped install secret programs on Microsoft software, currently in use of 90% of computers [50].

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The 1999 report "Assessing the Technologies of Political Control" [28] commissioned by the Civil Liberties Committee of the European 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 [29] describes the ECHELON system and the state of the art in COMINT in great detail.

French politicians and lawyers have frequently accused the US and Britain of using electronic intelligence networks to win business away from foreign rivals [30].


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 one."

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 demonstration
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 countries.


Parliament’s rules of procedure require at least 157 signatures (25% of MEPs) for such a demand [31].

Heidi Hautala, Co-President of the Green/EFA Group said,

"Two years 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 works.


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 Parliament.


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 [[32].


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 [33].

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 Department of Commerce refused to talk to the committee. The MEPs cut their visit short, returning home angry and frustrated. [34]

The first draft of the report, prepared by Gerhard Schmidt, was published in early June 2001 [35] but the MEPs admitted they had been unable to find conclusive proof of industrial espionage.


They considered the threat to privacy posed by ECHELON to be more disturbing and James Bamford is quoted as saying that,

"the real issue is whether Echelon is doing away with individual privacy - a basic human right" [36].

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 [37].

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".


They 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 slideshow [38].


The first paper summarizes the role of ECHELON in COMINT [39] and points out that very few media reports have provided original new information about Echelon.


The second paper [40] 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 Advocacy Center. The third paper [41] 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."

It called for the development and promotion of European "user-friendly open-source encryption software" - it wanted "encryption to become the norm". 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.

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