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take”to dip their electronic ladles into the vast caldron of intercepts and
select what they liked. The software package that established this was
codenamed Echelon.
During the 1980s, fax machines and computers began to proliferate.
More and more information once sealed tightly in envelopes began
zipping through the ether. Everything from private letters to tax returns
to contracts to business negotiations to foreign unclassified military and
diplomatic messages suddenly went from opaque to transparent. All
spies needed was steel nets to catch the signals as they plunged from the
international communications satellites (INTELSATs). Perched like
chattering magpies in geostationary orbits above the earth, the seventeen
INTELSAT satellites provide telephone, fax, e-mail, and other
international communications to over 200 countries and territories
around the world. The system is managed by the International
Telecommunications Satellite Organization, a Washington, D.C.”based
cooperative. "We link the world's telecommunications networks together,"
says the company.
As commercial earth stations were built around the world to transmit
and receive millions of private messages and telephone calls to and from
the INTELSATs, NSA and its partners quietly began constructing mirror



339
sites hidden nearby. Massive ninety-foot dishes resting on thick cement
pedestals, they looked like great silver chalices containing offerings to the
gods. The first ones were built in an isolated valley in Sugar Grove, West
Virginia (using parts from the failed Moonbounce project); on a vast,
restricted Army firing range in Yakima, Washington; and at the edge of a
Cornish cliff near Bude, England. As more INTELSATs began dotting the
distant skies, the UKUSA partnership began building more ground
stations to eavesdrop on them.
By the end of the 1980s, the revolution was in full swing. Wholesale
satellite eavesdropping would change the nature of signals intelligence
forever. "We grew so fast in the '80's we got buried," recalled Robert L.
Prestel, who took over as deputy director in 1990.




CHAPTER ELEVEN MUSCLE


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ZMNZJK NTO EKMAJO SRB JUEJABJX BR XJBRQK YTATBMRS EDTSO
MWCUPQI OXC OQWC HQUU KXZ QWHIKXZO OKDSR ZSUKMMCKWU
KDXGWX QDV OWOWXLDF FSGWE FVW WFADT OD AYWOFSG
PUILSC RUXXWD UXZR UJKIED GL SILRUOE OPUGSOL UIWZKEGS


The southern French city of Toulouse has developed a pinkish tint as
a result of the centuries-old blending of brick and red tile. Houseboats
line the Canal du Midi, the waterway linking the Atlantic Ocean with the
Mediterranean Sea, and a labyrinth of alleyways leads to the
embankments of the Garonne River. On the northern outskirts of the city
sits a small factory on the winding Chemin du Pont de Rupe. There, in
December 1997, a salesman by the name of T. Dècle3 became a fly
caught in UKUSA's worldwide electronic web. In the shadow of the
nearby Pyrenees, where the Visigoths and also Charlemagne once ruled,
the complex system of eavesdropping satellites, hidden antennas, and
powerful supercomputers began telescoping down to the beige phone on
the unsuspecting salesman's desk.


In the equatorial forests of French Guiana, the air was leaden with
humidity during the brief interludes between fierce downpours. Forty
miles west of the capital of Cayenne, the Kourou River feeds into endless

To protect the privacy of the salesman, a pseudonym has been used.
3




340
mangrove swamps and tropical marshlands. There, on March 14, 1996, a
sleek white Ariane 44P rocket rose above the green canopy of coconut
palms and screeching macaws at the European Space Agency. After three
months of testing and calibration, INTELSAT 707 was nudged into its
geostationary orbit high above the tiny West African island nation of Sao
Tome and Principe. There, like an orbital switchboard, it was capable of
relaying up to 90,000 telephone calls and data transmissions
simultaneously throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Twenty-two thousand miles below and to the north, on a mist-hazed
cliff in England's Cornwall, intercept operators at GCHQ's Morwenstow
listening post, near Bude, were working around the clock. Like an
outfielder under a high fly ball, the Morwenstow station was ideally
positioned to secretly catch the new satellite's beam containing
thousands of simultaneous messages and conversations. In the days
following the satellite's activation, technicians in the station worked
overtime attempting to log and program into their computers and
Echelon software the channels with the highest intelligence value.
Sitting high above the Celtic Sea on the edge of Sharpnose Point, the
base has nearly a dozen dishes pointed to the heavens. It was originally
built in the late 1960s, largely with money from NSA, to eavesdrop on
communications flowing down to Europe from the early INTELSAT
satellites. A brief sixty miles away, also in Cornwall, was Britain's
commercial ground station for the satellites, at Goonhilly Downs.
Once the Morwenstow station was completed, the director of GCHQ at
the time, Sir Leonard Hooper, sent his personal thanks to Marshall
Carter. "I know that I have leaned shamefully on you, and sometimes
taken your name in vain, when I needed approval for something at this
end," Sir Leonard wrote. "The aerials at Bude ought to be christened 'Pat'
[Carter's nickname] and 'Louis' [Tordella]!" Hooper added, "Between us,
we have ensured that the blankets and sheets are more tightly tucked
around the bed in which our two sets of people lie and, like you, I like it
that way."
Later Carter commented on the letters, explaining Hooper's budget
problems and how he would approach his superiors for the money. "He
says, 'Well, look, you can turn me down from the British viewpoint, but
I'm in bed with Pat Carter on this thing”this is a joint requirement; he
needs it as badly as I do. The product that he is going to develop for us
will come right to us, so would you take another look at this, because he
wants it, it will help him in his business. We'll get the results of it.' "
Today, among UKUSA's key targets are Iran, China, and North Korea.
Just as Morwenstow eavesdrops on INTELSAT communications to
Europe, INTELSAT signals to the Far East are monitored from a large
American listening post in Japan. There, at Misawa Air Base on the



341
northern tip of Honshu Island, the antenna area looks like a soccer field
for giants. Fourteen large radomes, like mammoth soccer balls, sit on a
stretch of green. Nearby is an elephant-cage antenna, over 100 feet tall
and nearly a quarter-mile wide.
The signals collected by the antennas are piped into a modern
windowless building known as the Misawa Cryptologic Operations
Center. Inside, NSA civilians and 1,800 tri-service (Army, Navy, Air Force)
military Sigint specialists work in shifts. Among them are the Naval
Security Group and the Air Force 301st Intelligence Squadron, which
performs "satellite communications processing and reporting." One of the
satellites on which Misawa performs "processing and reporting" is an
INTELSAT 8 launched over the Pacific on June 27, 1997, with a capacity
for up to 112,500 simultaneous phone calls.
The Army's 750th Military Intelligence Company is also there. Of the
Army intercept operators and analysts, many are so-called 98Ks: signals
collection/identification analysts. They are involved in the "collection,
identification, exploitation, and analysis of digital and analog
communications, to include voice, teleconferencing, videoconferencing,
facsimile, computer-to-computer traffic, and telemetry." In other words,
everything that might go through an INTELSAT.
The days of intercepting Morse code are long gone. Today the focus is
on intercepting and analyzing far more complex digital satellite
communications. According to an Army intelligence publication, " 98Ks
will 'break' digital signals into a recognizable form so that the 98C
(signals intelligence analyst), 98G (voice interceptor), 98H
(communications locator/interceptor), and 98J (electronic intelligence
interceptor/analyst) soldiers can further exploit the intelligence within
the 'digital window.' "
Some of the advanced training is done at the Navy's Technical
Training Center at Corry Station in Pensacola, Florida. Other courses are
given remotely, from NSA's National Cryptologic School. Among the
courses are FORNSAT (Foreign Satellite Collection), COMSAT
(Communications Satellite Collection), Cellular Communications
Collection, Overhead Collection Management, Computer/Signals
Analysis, Bit Stream Analysis, Modems, Multiplexing, Geolocation,
Antenna Selection, and Target Development. Among the FORNSATs the
Misawa analysts likely focus on are the several domestic China Sats in
orbit, also known as DHF-3s.
Another course is VSAT (Very Small Aperture Satellite [Terminal])
Collection. This type of collection is aimed at intercepting
communications using small dishes, such as those used with DirecTV.
India's nuclear weapons establishment, for example, uses this method to
send and receive encrypted digital messages by satellite.



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Also busy eavesdropping on INTELSATs over the Pacific are New
Zealand's listening post at Waihopai and Australia's station at Geraldton,
230 miles north of Perth. A port on the Indian Ocean in the extreme
westernmost part of the country, Geraldton was designed primarily to
eavesdrop on the two INTELSATs over the Indian Ocean. It is also able to
monitor the Pacific Ocean satellites. The station was opened by DSD in
1994, about the same time as GCHQ's Hong Kong station was closing.
In the post”Cold War years, the proliferation of both nuclear and
conventional weapons has joined the chief concerns of the U.S.
government. A particular worry is the possible sale by China of nuclear
components and missile parts to Pakistan and Iran. Thus, NSA receives
numerous requests from the CIA, the State Department, and other
"customers" for intelligence on such transfers. Analysts at these agencies
submit to NSA long, detailed watch lists containing keywords and names.
After NSA receives the watch lists containing the keywords, names,
phrases, telephone and fax numbers, analysts assign four-digit numbers
to them”search codes”and then pass them on, through the Echelon
computer system, to the various UKUSA listening posts. There a
computer, codenamed Dictionary, searches for those words and numbers
among the millions of messages passing through the intercept antennas.
It does this much as computers use search engines such as Alta Vista to
locate keywords and phone numbers almost instantly in the vast
Internet.
No doubt high on the list of keywords submitted to NSA is the name of
Jin Xuekuan, the president of China National Precision Machinery
Import & Export Corporation. This Chinese government”owned
company, a sort of Missiles 'R' Us on Fu Cheng Road in Beijing, is
responsible for foreign sales of missiles and other weapons. Once a
listening post gets a hit on Jin, the intercept will automatically be
forwarded to NSA. There, an analyst need only enter the search number
for Jin and any intercepts from, to, or mentioning him will appear on the
analyst's screen.
Despite the very secret nature of weapons deals, communications
about them are seldom encrypted, because each country has separate
and incompatible systems. So the parties are forced to resort to
commercial faxes, phone calls, and electronic mail. Also, as in any
complicated sale, a great deal of electronic "paperwork" is always
generated”contracts, warranties, price negotiations, service agreements:
the same type of paperwork as is involved if Burger King sells a franchise
to a company in Holland. For the UKUSA partners, this enormous
"paper" trail is collectable over the open airwaves through their
worldwide electronic dredging operation.
Terrorists also frequently use unencrypted communications, because



343
for encryption the caller and the receiver must have compatible systems.
Since at least one party is often traveling, carrying encryption equipment
can be cumbersome.
According to information obtained for Body of Secrets, NSA regularly
listens to unencrypted calls from suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden,
in hiding in Afghanistan. Bin Laden uses a portable INMARSAT phone
that transmits and receives calls over spacecraft owned by the
International Maritime Satellite Organization. This is the same system
used by most ships and some people who travel to remote locations,
such as oil explorers. According to intelligence officials, Bin Laden is
aware that the United States can eavesdrop on his international
communications, but he does not seem to care. To impress cleared
visitors, NSA analysts occasionally play audiotapes of Bin Laden talking
to his mother over an INMARSAT connection.
When targets do use encryption, or when the information is sent by
diplomatic pouch, cyberspies have to be creative. "With regard to
encryption," said one former official, "you look for places outside the
zone. At some time he has to go to the Danish freight forwarder or
Danish shipping guy to ask him a question”˜I need a ship with extra-
heavy reinforced decking with a hatch this size.' So we just need to look
other places. Yeah, it's going to be harder. Look for letters of credit being
cut”they almost always have to go to a regular bank."
Vast numbers of messages and phone calls are intercepted from the
INTELSATs, and likewise the power and speed of the NSA computers that
sift through the sea of information are enormous. According to William
Studeman, "U.S. intelligence operates what is probably the largest
information processing environment in the world. Consider this: Just one
intelligence collection system alone can generate a million inputs per
half-hour. Filters throw away all but 6,500 inputs; only 1,000 inputs
meet forwarding criteria. Ten inputs are normally selected by analysts
and only one report is produced. These are routine statistics for a
number of intelligence collection and analysis systems which collect
technical intelligence."
Despite sophisticated software, watch lists, and powerful computers,
signals intelligence analysis is an attempt to solve a puzzle whose pieces
are difficult to see, include only small bits of the much larger picture,
and are constantly changing. Sometimes the pieces of the puzzle lead to
dead ends, and sometimes they lead to great discoveries. Occasionally
they may lead to serious consequences for innocent, unsuspecting
citizens of friendly countries. Sometimes the answers are just gray and
ambiguous. The piece of the puzzle fits but the words don't match.
Highly secret documents reviewed for Body of Secrets describe in
detail how NSA and its UKUSA partners spent years following one



344
difficult trail”that of China's C-802 missile and Iran's attempts to build
one of its own. They offer unique insight into the controversial and
misunderstood Echelon program, showing the system at its best and also
at its most questionable. The documents were reviewed at the National
Security News Service in Washington, a nonprofit group that has
researched the C-802.

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