European Officials Suspect the United States is Spying on Its Allies
Europeans suspect the 27 radomes at a U.S. listening post at Menwith Hill, Yorkshire, U.K., are being used for more than just matters of international security. (Federation of American Scientists) By David Ruppe
N E W Y O R K, July 16 Some of America's closest European allies suspect a massive U.S. listening post, nestled on the quiet, windswept moors of northern England, has secretly been spying on European governments, businesses and citizens.
The station, located at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, and reportedly staffed with more than 1,000 Americans, was created nearly 40 years ago to keep tabs on the Soviet empire.
But since the Cold War, the station has continued to expand, reportedly adding billions of dollars worth of sophisticated listening equipment capable of simultaneously intercepting millions of European telephone conversations, faxes and e-mails.
The more than two-dozen "radomes" now visible at the site giant golf-ball like structures containing satellite dishes and other listening equipment are used to download information from U.S. spy satellites and intercept communications relayed through commercial satellites from Europe, North Africa and western Asia, experts say.
The site is supposed to be used to monitor matters of international security, such as weapons proliferation, drug trafficking and terrorism. But according to numerous European press reports, businesses, civil liberties groups, and some government officials believe Menwith Hill and a sister post at Bad Aibling, Germany are also targeting them.
Suspicions of Spying
A report released by the European Parliament in 1998 further stirred up fears of illegal eavesdropping. It concluded Menwith Hill and a related system of sites are "designed for primarily non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country."
"French law forbids that kind of interception," says David Nataf, a French lawyer for an organization representing defense, aerospace and telecommunications companies.
Since the report, legislators have pressured the French government to explain what it was doing to counter Menwith Hill's capabilities, Nataf says.
In apparent response, the French government last March issued a decree allowing the public to use more powerful encryption, which would hamper eavesdropping on, say, e-mail and telephone conversations.
Germany last month also announced it would relax encryption controls and took the unusual step of announcing it would promote the use of powerful encryption throughout Germany even though both moves will likely make eavesdropping by law enforcement more difficult.
Neither government mentioned U.S. intelligence gathering as a reason, though each alluded to a growing threat of espionage against national businesses and citizens.
In Britain, the government has been asked repeatedly to provide assurances that operations at Menwith Hill are not breaking the law.
In March, a British member of Parliament queried his government on whether U.S. activities at Menwith Hill fully comply with British law, U.S. law, European Union law, and international law.
Not really answering the question, the government responded: "The United States Visiting Forces authorities...at RAF Menwith Hill, are required to respect the laws of this country."
Damaging European Report
Then, in April, the European Parliament released a report specifically charging that the U.S. government used information gained through eavesdropping during international trade negotiations, and that U.S. companies used it, too, to defeat European competitors in major trade competitions.
The report, authored by British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, cited several news accounts of alleged economic espionage, including a 1995 story in The Baltimore Sun.
"Former intelligence officials and other experts say tips based on spying... regularly flow from the Commerce Department to U.S. companies to help them win contracts overseas," the Sun reported.
The report said the Commerce Department, which is responsible for promoting U.S. trade, has an office specially designated to receive information from the intelligence community.
It also charged that Internet browsers and other software shipped to Europe by American manufacturers are intentionally disabled so secure communications can be read by the U.S. National Security Agency, the cornerstone organization of U.S. electronic intelligence, without difficulty.
Since the report's release, Sweden's foreign minister has said his government will investigate whether Swedish companies were harmed by American spying. Another British MP has called on his government to stop Menwith Hill from spying on British companies and citizens.
The NSA refused to comment on Menwith Hill.
Continued on next page...
CIABASE is the website of retired CIA agent Ralph McGehee. He authored the new book of that name, an encyclopedia of CIA actions since WW2. It's a harsh look, suggesting how he feels the CIA should be completely an intelligence agency, and less a "covert action arm of the president's foreign policy advisers. In that capacity it overthrows or supports foreign governments while reporting 'intelligence' justifying those activities. It shapes its intelligence, even in such critical areas as Soviet nuclear weapon capability, to support presidential policy. Disinformation is a large part of its covert action responsibility, and the American people are the primary target audience of its lies." You'll find a huge online database on CIA. There's zilch on ASA, but some on the secret tunnel from Site 1, and intel actions in Berlin by CIA fronts which were located all around us. Did you know of the fronts so near to us at the Berlin Free University?
Project Echelon What is it? Well, does the phrase, "In God we trust, all others we monitor" mean anything to you? The world has been and is being watched by a global surveillance system called ECHELON that catches all of your tele-communications and sifts them, catching nuggets of pre-determined flag words, to keep a running log of what you think, do and say? Everything on it here from unclassified channels on the subject, and more, courtesy Disinformation/Counterintelligence website.