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Big Brother's Watching You
They're spying on you!
Menwith Hill: Nosey Cunts.

Nestling deep within the North Yorkshire moors, above Harrogate, around 30 giant golf balls, known as radomes, rise from a giant US military base called Menwith Hill.

Menwith Hill is the largest phone-monitoring centre in the entire world. Despite the fact that the United Kingdom is not the largest population in the world, nor does it make the largest number of phone calls, either as a whole, or per head of population.

This 'excess capacity' is currently being used to analyse all telecommunications traffic (personal calls, email, faxes, etc.) throughout the UK.

The base is linked directly to the NSA headquarters at Fort Mead in Maryland, GCHQ in the UK, and a series of other listening posts scattered across the world.

This network is called Echelon, and the power of the hardware being used is impressive to say the least.

Back in 1992, the young days of the Net, Menwith alone was intercepting over 2,000,000,000 messages an hour. These were sifted through, and analysed, via computer, for dodgy keywords. Of these, 13,000 were passed to analysts, who were interested in 20.

Computer technology has moved on a long way since then, and it's reasonable to assume that they've been continually upgrading their hardware accordingly.

For example, the computer I use, is a 486DX33 with 4xCD-ROM, 1 megabyte graphics, 16 megabytes RAM, and a 200 Megabyte hard disk. Back in 1992, such technology would have been cutting edge, and set you back the best part of £2,000 - £2,500. Today, it's obsolete. I paid £40 for it.

The official line, as always, is that this network is being used to catch 'terrorists'. However, I'm not aware of it being responsible for ever catching a single terrorist, and it probably never will.

Has there ever been a single recorded case of a professional terrorist sending an email, fax, phone call, to a colleague along the lines of "I've placed the bomb outside the Government building. It's set to go off in thirty minutes"?

I think not. Such a message would normally be along the lines of "Thanks for the meal last night, we'll have to do it again some time", and would bypass Echelon analysts completely.

Still, Echelon's not a complete waste of money. There has been at least one recorded incident of the NSA snooping on phone calls from a French firm bidding for a lucrative contract in Brazil. The information was passed on to an American competitor who won the contract.


© Sean Copland 1995-2014
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